Crawford-Tufts balances football, track
APR 11, 2013 5:00a ET
MINNEAPOLIS — Devin Crawford-Tufts is a football player, first and foremost. But the Gophers junior is still a track star at heart.
This year, he finally found a way to make both sports work.
Crawford-Tufts is a wide receiver on Minnesota's football team. As a true freshman, he contributed to the Gophers' offense by making eight catches for 156 yards. As a sophomore last year, the Edina native had 16 catches for 189 yards, including a season-long 40-yard catch against Syracuse.
Once football season was done following Minnesota's bowl game at the end of December, Crawford-Tufts was finally able to turn his attention to track for the first time as a Gopher and sprint for Minnesota. He ran the 60-meter dash and 200-meter dash and competed in the Big Ten Championships in February. His best time in the 60 was 6.78 seconds and he ran it in 6.80 to finish fourth in the Big Ten Championship finals.
"It was actually really exciting to be able to finally run track again," said Crawford-Tufts, a two-time state champion sprinter at Edina. "I kind of missed it since high school. It's a different feeling when you're in the blocks. I'm glad that coach (Jerry) Kill allowed me to go out there and run some track, too."
Approaching his football coach to ask about crossing over to another sport in the offseason wasn't easy, Crawford-Tufts admitted, but Kill was more than happy to let his wide receiver swap his football cleats for track spikes.
"I think he understands that (football comes first)," Kill said. "We've had good understanding with flexibility. He ran track, now he's got football. The big thing, his deal is staying healthy. He's done a great job with the track coach and (strength coach Eric Klein) on that part of it. You can't overtrain somebody."
Injuries have plagued Crawford-Tufts since his senior year of high school, when he injured his hamstring during the state meet in 2010. He was also banged up this season and did not play in Minnesota's game at Wisconsin as a result.
After competing in the indoor track season, Crawford-Tufts said he feels healthy again and is full go for spring practices.
"I feel a lot faster and my legs feel a lot better when I'm running," he said. "I believe (track) actually added to football."
Crawford-Tufts said he thought about competing in track as a freshman but felt the adjustment to Big Ten football and life as a college student were enough for him to deal with. He wanted to learn everything about the offense in his first year before entertaining the thought or running track again.
There was also the balance Crawford-Tufts had to strike when it came to his weight and body structure. Since he arrived on campus, the Gophers have been trying to bulk him up. He's now listed at 6-foot-2, 193 pounds but he weighed closer to 180 pounds when he began as a lanky freshman.
On the flip side, extra bulk doesn't always equate to a good thing in track, as it can slow down runners. But Crawford-Tufts believes he's been able to strike a balance.
"In the offseason, they always set your goals for weights and everything. When you're running track a ton and you're running and running and running, it's hard to maintain a weight or keep weight," Crawford-Tufts said. "Both coaches on both sides did a really great job of helping me make sure I kept my body healthy and also helping me so that I can do the things that football wants and also compete in track as well."
Now that indoor track is done, Crawford-Tufts is once again focusing on football. He knows this has the potential to be a big year for him and for the rest of the wide receivers, who along with sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson are hoping to take a step forward in a passing game that ranked ninth in the Big Ten last season.
Crawford-Tufts was the team's fourth-leading receiver a year ago and is fighting alongside Derrick Engel and Isaac Fruechte for a starting spot. His track speed means Crawford-Tufts brings a deep threat to the Gophers' offense.
Given his potential and the growth he's made in his first two years, his coaches are expecting big things for Crawford-Tufts in 2013.
"They have high expectations, and I have high expectations of myself," he said. "I'm hard on myself and I want to be the best player that I can be, so I've already put that pressure on myself to just do better this year."
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