Nov. 7, 2008
By JERRY HILL
Baylor Bear Insider
(This is one of a series of articles on the 2008 induction class for the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame)
With only three career interceptions, former Baylor cornerback Ray Crockett knows that his collegiate stats don't exactly stack up against Hall of Famers like Thomas Everett, Michael Welch, Robert Blackmon and Vann McElroy.
But he credits a selfless act from 20 years ago for his induction with this year's class for the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame. When Welch went down with a knee injury prior to the 1988 season, Crockett moved from his natural cornerback position inside to a free safety spot that was totally foreign.
"I was projected to be an All-American at cornerback. And I really didn't have that good of a year at safety," said the 41-year-old Crockett. "But that just shows you that Baylor recognizes the sacrifice I made for the team . I went to a position that, at 5-9 and 180 pounds, I was never going to play in the NFL. But being a selfless player, I did it for the team. And they say that never pays off. So for them to recognize what I did, that means a lot to me."
And it was a move that certainly didn't curtail his NFL career. Drafted in the fourth round by the Detroit Lions in 1989, Crockett played 14 seasons with the Lions, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, had 36 career interceptions and played on back-to-back Super Bowl champions with the Broncos in 1997 and '98.
In his third season with the Lions, they defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 38-6, in the playoffs before losing to the Washington Redskins, 41-10, in the 1991 NFC Championship.
"When you do something like that early in your career, you're like, `Hey, it's always going to be like that,''' Crockett said. "We did get back to the playoffs (in 1993). But when I went to Denver, I felt like a new man unleashed. They brought me in to play man-to-man cover. We had played a lot of zone stuff in Detroit, but going to Denver kind of took me back to my Baylor roots. That's what I was the comfortable doing. I love the man-to-man, bump-and-run cover."
Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII are mostly remembered as the games when the Broncos in general and quarterback John Elway in particular got to shed the image of big-game losers as they knocked off Green Bay the first year and Atlanta the next season. But they were also the crowing athletic achievements for a certain former Baylor football player.
"You would have to say that in any career, winning two Super Bowls back-to-back would be the pinnacle," said Crockett, who played two more seasons in Denver and two in Kansas City before retiring in '03. "There are a lot of guys that go to the Hall of Fame that don't have Super Bowl rings. I remember Barry Sanders saying that's all he ever wanted was to win a championship. Going to the Hall of Fame is a great individual accomplishment, of course. But in football, which is a team-oriented game like no other, winning that championship is the ultimate."
The amazing thing is that Crockett didn't even play football until his sophomore year at Duncanville High School. Until then, it was strictly basketball and track.
Dan Gandy, the high school football coach, told him, "If you can run that fast, you should be able to play football. Just line up and cover that guy in front of you."
"So that's how I started," said Crockett, a three-time all-district pick who got scholarship offers from USC, Oklahoma and Iowa. "I've always been a man-to-man corner."
While he kept USC "on the back burner," Crockett said his college decision came down to Baylor and Iowa.
"I knew that if I went to Iowa, my mom and dad wouldn't get the chance to come see me play that much," he said. "And my mom was Baptist-raised, and Baylor was close to home, so I knew Baylor was the best place for me."
After breaking into the starting lineup as a sophomore for a 9-3 team that knocked off Colorado in the Bluebonnet Bowl, Crockett earned All-Southwest Conference honors in 1987, when he had 62 tackles, 13 pass breakups, one interception and a fumble recovery.
He said defensive coordinator Pete Fredenburg, who's now the head coach at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, was "real demanding."
"He was one of those coaches that really helped me develop," Crockett said, "because he believed that a cornerback should cover and tackle as well. He was like, `If you can't tackle, you can't play for me.' Coach Fredenburg was a great defensive coordinator. He allowed me to do what I like to do."
Since retiring from the NFL five years ago, Crockett started his own real estate and printing businesses - Crockett 39 Property and Aluma Graphics. He also appeared on the NBC game show, Identity, and was confined to a wheelchair for 30 days for an episode of 30 Days.
Crockett and his wife, April, live in Southlake, Texas, and have three children: 20-year-old daughter, Joi, and sons, Ray Jr., 13; and Darryl, 7.
"I was fortunate enough to have a great career in the NFL," he said, "and to own successful businesses as well. I've been very blessed my whole life."
Joining Crockett in this year's Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame class are current director of tennis Matt Knoll, former baseball standout Marty Crawford, cross country runner Sally Geis Smart, track and field's Roy Lee Smalley and basketball's Tom Stanton.
NOTE: The final installment in the Hall of Fame series, a feature on track and field standout Roy Lee Smalley, will appear on the BaylorBears.com web site this weekend following Friday night's Hall of Fame induction banquet.