By SALLY SEXTON
H-P Sports Writer
Gralyn Crawford has been a familiar face on the Westwood football field, becoming the starting quarterback his sophomore season and leading the Panthers to a playoff victory in his final one this year.
Crawford will have the opportunity to play at the next level after signing a letter-of-intent Wednesday morning to attend Stephen F. Austin State University.
“When I went to visit there, they basically told me all the right stuff,” Crawford said. “The campus is really nice and it’s close to home.”
SFA, a member of the NCAA’s Southland Conference, did no win a game last season, but the Lumberjacks had 29 high school players sign Wednesday, including several from East Texas.
Crawford will transition from quarterback to slot-wide receiver and return kicks on specials team. In the class room, Gralyn is planning on studying computer science.
“I’m proud of him academically as well as athletically. He’s got the skills and the knack to be a great college player,” Westwood athletic director and SFA graduate Shane Jones said. “I feel like he’s worked extremely hard, and it’s nice to have him go and play at the next level.”
Jones was Crawford’s football coach three of his four years at Westwood, and has known the senior since Crawford’s elementary school days.
“Looking back at him and his class from eighth grade to now is kind of special,” Jones said. “He’s been a part of the program since junior high and it’s exciting to see him go.”
In his final season, Crawford finished 123-of-233 passing for 1,950 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also was the team’s leading rusher with 213 carries for 1,693 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Crawford’s honors this season included being the District 19-3A co-Most Valuable Player, the Dogwood Circle Offensive Player of the Year and an honorable mention on the Class 3A Associated Press All-State team.
“From a football standpoint, he was definitely our leader,” Westwood head coach Kevin Anderson said. “When he played well, we played really well and we were hard to beat.”
Crawford led Westwood to it’s first playoff victory in school history this season with a 65-59 bi-district win over Diboll. The quarterback rushed for 167 yards and three scores and completed three touchdowns for 334 yards.
“He’s got all the tools and he’s going to do well,” Anderson said. “As long as he keeps working hard, the sky will be the limit.”
Crawford said his motivation for athletics comes from his coaches and his parents.
“I didn’t think I could come in and be the starting quarterback as a sophomore, but the coaches had faith in me and stood by me and I want to thank them for that,” Crawford said. “Mom and Dad came to every football game and gave me real support.”
As a sophomore, Crawford shared time at quarterback with Terris Nichols, but earned the starting spot in the Panthers’ seventh game.
In his first start, he threw for 181 yards. He finished the season with a 413-yard, five-touchdown performance against Diboll.
Sally Sexton can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
By SALLY SEXTON