PLANO, Texas (AP)—Two years of college football, two years of being chosen the best receiver in the country. There wasn’t much left for Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree to accomplish.
So now he’s eager to see how he’ll do in the NFL.
Crabtree said Tuesday he’s giving up his final two years of eligibility because he thinks he’s ready for pro football. The first challenge is finding out how high he’ll go in the draft.
“As far as I’ve seen, top 5. That’s what I’m striving for,” Crabtree said.
Tall, strong and fast enough, Crabtree averaged 120.3 yards and 1.6 touchdowns per game in college, extraordinarily high numbers even in coach Mike Leach’s video game-esque offense.
His career totals of 231 catches for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns would be remarkable over three or four years. Compiled over only two years, it’s no wonder he was an All-American both seasons and was a two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver. He was fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy this past season.
“I feel like the next level will be a big challenge for me and I’m looking forward to it,” Crabtree said.
He’s already taken to the lifestyle of a star pro receiver.
Crabtree held his news conference at an upscale hotel in a suburb north of Dallas. It was orchestrated by Deion Sanders, and there was talk of the advice he’s gotten from another buddy, Michael Irvin.
In the parking lot outside, his car bore the license plate “Crab 5.” The same message was attached to both front doors. The car was as shiny as the pair of diamond earrings Crabtree wore.
Some folks from Wells Fargo were among his many well-wishers, underscoring his other motivation for turning pro now—cashing on his success without risking injury or a substandard junior season, which is possible considering the Red Raiders will be breaking in a new quarterback.
“It was hard when I was little. Money was a big problem,” Crabtree said. “I feel like this was the best decision.”
Sanders and Irvin already have given Crabtree plenty of advice.
“The main thing is, it’s work. It’s your job now,” Crabtree said. “You’ve got to wake up every day working.”
Former Olympic champion Michael Johnson will oversee Crabtree’s pre-draft training. The top priority is improving his speed, although he also must get over an ankle injury that slowed him during the Cotton Bowl, when he was held to a career-low 30 yards receiving.
Crabtree will attend the combine, but won’t run. He’ll save that for a Pro Day event that will be held in Dallas.
“I’m a learner,” he said. “I just can’t wait to learn. I’m ready.”
Texas Tech defensive end Brandon Williams also announced Tuesday that he’s entering the draft. The reigning Big 12 sack leader is projected to be a third-round pick, but that was good enough for him.
“A lot of the coaches wanted me to come back, but I talked to my parents and we decided it was time to go,” Williams said.
Crabtree’s decision wasn’t a surprise. The surprise is that he became this good, this fast.
A running quarterback in high school, he doesn’t even remember the scant number of passes he caught.
“About two?” he said.
Crabtree redshirted while making the conversion to college receiver, catching tennis balls fired from a machine to help improve his hands. That extra year also puts him three years removed from high school and, thus, eligible for the draft.
After a record-shattering freshman season, he put up strong numbers again this year against defenses aiming to stop him. His most memorable play was a tackle-busting spin into the end zone with 1 second left to knock off top-ranked Texas in Lubbock. Texas Tech went on to reach 10-0 and No. 2 in the nation, but lost two if its final three games and finished the year ranked 12th.
Leach said he enjoyed coaching Crabtree and wishes him the best.
“I’m just excited to see what the future holds for him,” Leach said.
Crabtree drew big laughs from family and friends when he said Tuesday that he decided to go pro only a few days before. He also talked about a two-hour chat he had with Leach immediately following the Cotton Bowl.
“For 30 minutes, he was telling me about how I should stay,” Crabtree said, laughing heartily at his coach’s fondness for rambling conversations. “The other half, I don’t even remember. There was some pirates, some ski trips coming up.”