The Gophers soccer team has 14 five-year-olds, seven of whom are in their sixth seasons and one in its seventh campaign. Quarterback Tanner Morgan has joined midfielder Jack Gibbens as betrothed and upcoming man, and quarterback Niles Pinckney is the father.
While they may not have gray hair yet, this is a veteran soccer team with player Mark Crawford in a league of its own. The second year player from Perth, Australia is 27 years old.
“I’m a little difficult,” he said in an Australian accent, sharing what his teammates jokingly called “an old fossil.”
Dinosaur jokes aside, Crawford is having his best day in Minnesota. Crawford was named Big Ten Player of the Week for his strength and accuracy in winning U 20-13 at Purdue on October 2.
Crawford averaged 51.3 yards on six antlers against the Boilermakers, with two antlers covering 60 yards throughout their careers. And he placed four antlers four inside the 15-yard line. He did it on a rainy day in West Lafayette, Indiana — sometimes in drizzling rain, sometimes in the rainy season.
Head Coach PJ Fleck made Crawford feel good on his KFAN radio show in a playful mood: “We now have a fire station with hoses directed to Huntington Bank Stadium to make it seem like it is raining.
“He was amazing,” Fleck added of Crawford.
Crawford has shown what he can do and will now need to extend the distance to his 42.7 yards average this season – well beyond the top ten in the Big Ten – when Minnesota (3-2, 1-1 ) collides with Nebraska (3). -4, 1-3) at 11am Saturday in Minneapolis.
“It was a good day, wasn’t it? … Maybe not for the weather, ”Crawford said of the Purdue game. “These were the basics. It was nice to see how some of them came out of the rain. You’re thinking about getting the ball, not thinking too much about things, which probably helped me. ”
Crawford’s average is up 37.8 yards in his first year of play, but he wants him to continue to grow in his last seven games this year. “I knew I was close at times and it was nice to have a day that was more stable,” he added. “I’m grateful for that.”
When Crawford was almost the same age as his teammates (18), he stopped playing Australian football by the rules. When he was about 22 years old, he gave up his career as a cricketer.
“I fell out of love with him, and I had a couple of years off when I was traveling,” Crawford said. “I had my own small business of repairing sprinklers, irrigation, which is pretty weird.”
Crawford moved to Melbourne and at 6’5 ” and 220 pounds, he was asked to join Pro Kick Australia, an organization that has produced over 75 US scholarships or contracts since 2007. It is led by Nathan. Chapman, who played for eight years in the Australian Football League and played preseason for the Green Bay Packers in 2004.
Okay, I’ll try, Crawford thought. “I thought it was going to be pretty fun, but to be honest, I didn’t really think about it. It was one of those things. I said that I would give it back for six months. If I can go to school in six months or get interest or something, then yes, definitely. After a couple of months: “Do you want to go to Minnesota?” I didn’t even doubt it ”.
After the 2019 season, Gophers special team coach Rob Wenger went underground to find a replacement for senior Jacob Herbers. It was a well that opened more and more.
In the mid-1990s Australian Darren Bennett enjoyed great success as a two-time Pro Bowl player for the San Diego Chargers until 2003. He played for the Vikings in 2004-05.
The trend for Australian players to enter the US really took off in the 2000s, with Australians winning six of the last eight Ray Guy Awards, which are awarded annually to the nation’s top college players.
“In Australian football, you have to hit from the start,” Crawford said. “This is a fundamental skill in the game, and I was about four or five years old (when I first started out). I started picking up the mutes and transferring them and the like. In fact, everyone does it. ”
Crawford thinks that Hawkeyes colleague Tory Taylor from Australia and Iowa is “one of my best program mates.”
Crawford said he was lucky to meet two very successful Australian players: Mitch Wisnowski and Michael Dixon. Wisnowski won the 2016 Ray Guy Award in Utah and now plays for the 49ers; Dixon won Ray Guy in 2017 in Texas and now plays with Seahawks.
Crawford wants to go boating as long as he can, the dream is the NFL, but working on his degree in psychology was the main impetus for him coming to the U.S. He said he was fascinated by the dynamics of the melting pot in the locker rooms. players from different walks of life who can be brought together in one place.
“It’s cool that they just throw it into one big basket, and from there you sort of sort it out,” Crawford said. “Conflicts are rare, which is great. In that sense, it was really cool. I have told some of the mates at home (that) I have never met a group of so many guys who get along so well with so many different positions, backgrounds and ages. I didn’t think this could happen, but it happens. ”
There is also Crawford’s compatriot in the attacking U-tackle Daniel Falele. He and Crawford refer to each other as “comrades” at the Larson Football Performance Center.
Crawford said the gophers’ bonding adds freshness to the exit from Australia. “Compared to other Australians for scholarships in other schools, in this sense it is becoming quite competitive. You try to push each other, but it’s a little selfish. ”
Crawford said there is no greater culture shock than adjusting to the Minnesota winters. When COVID restrictions were eased last summer, he considered returning to Perth to see his parents, but the only child decided to stay in Minnesota.
His parents are likely to visit the Gophers game next season, and Crawford thinks they’ll love the back door party and possibly the grilled sausage.
Or, as Crawford put it, “A Snag for the Barbie.”