June 15, 2007

Crums share a bond but not an alma mater

Maurice Crum Sr. still remembers the horrors of his first trip to Notre Dame.

"Oh my goodness, it was one of those things I'll never forget," the former Miami linebacker said. "The thing I remember more than anything is going to the game and how the fans were still miles away from the stadium, but it seemed like there was a crowd everywhere. Everyone was yelling, 'Convicts vs. Catholics.' Getting off the bus, there had to be 100,000 signs out there."

When he returns to Notre Dame now, Crum gets an altogether different reception.

Those jeers the former Miami All-American once heard have been replaced by the cheers befitting the father of Notre Dame senior linebacker Maurice Crum Jr., who led the Irish in tackles last year.

The hero's welcome the elder Crum now receives is a scenario nobody could have expected during his playing career.

Crum Sr., 38, played on the 1988 Miami team that lost a 31-30 heartbreaker to Notre Dame. The game launched the Irish toward a national championship and cost the Hurricanes a shot at the title. Crum would avenge that loss to the Irish one year later on his way to winning his second national championship ring.

His son the future Notre Dame star attended that 27-10 Miami victory over the Irish and even went down to the sideline in the closing seconds. The elder Crum owns a framed photograph of the two of them together at the Orange Bowl in that moment of triumph.

Nearly two decades later, Crum Sr. still can't forget the emotional and physical toll of playing in the most heated college football rivalry of the late 1980s.

"It was to the point where tears were coming out of your eyes because you were so into the game and wanting to play," the former Butkus Award finalist said. "It was the type of game you never forget. The next day, you'd know you were in an all-out battle because there was just pounding play after play."

Since his son enrolled at Notre Dame, Crum Sr. has discovered that family ties mean more than school ties. How else would a Miami player from the 1980s ever root for the Irish?

"I get flak about it all the time,'' Crum Sr. said. "Miami just put me in their Hall of Fame. During the induction, when the guy was announcing me, he said, 'We're still going to let him in even though his son attends Notre Dame and not the University of Miami.' ''

Crum Jr.'s decision to play for the Irish shouldn't have come as much of a surprise.

He always had a knack for choosing sides that would test his dad's patience. Even though his father played for Miami, Crum Jr. didn't exactly bleed green-and-orange as a kid.

"I actually grew up a Florida State fan," Crum Jr. said. "If he was rooting for one team, I'd go for the opposite team."

That attitude reflects a competitive streak that runs in the family.

The tenacity that Crum Jr. shows on the football field each Saturday arose from intense father-son basketball games that the Crums played in front of their Tampa home.

These weren't the typical games in which a dad boosts his son's spirits by letting him win.

Crum Sr. instead would place a trash can on the street. He then would stand in front of it and dare his son to try to score by putting the ball in the can.

"We didn't have a court nearby, so I'd just pull out the garbage can," Crum Sr. said. "We just went at it father and son. He had to earn everything. He didn't like it, but he had to earn every basket. He got mad many a days."

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Notre Dame linebacker Maurice Crum Jr. continued a family tradition by leading the Fighting Irish in tackles last season. His father, Maurice Crum Sr., led Miami in tackles three consecutive seasons and earned first-team All-America honors as a senior. Here's a look at the year-by-year statistics for each player.
Maurice Crum Sr.
YearTacklesAssistsSacksTFL
198791111
1988614946
1989514713
1990695923
Totals190166813
Maurice Crum Jr.
2004*NANANANA
2005322503
20064753410
Totals7978413
*-Maurice Crum Jr. played on the scout team in 2004 and didn't appear in any games.
How often did Crum Jr. score on his dad?

"Not much," Crum Jr. admitted. "I ended up losing a lot of games."

Crum Sr. said their one-sided basketball rivalry didn't start evening out until his son got to college. Crum Jr. got angry as a kid when he couldn't beat his dad more often, but he now understands the value of the experience.

All those losses eventually made him a winner.

"It taught me how to fight and compete," Crum Jr. said. "It's one of those life lessons I'll never forget."

Those lessons came from someone who inherited a man's responsibilities at a young age. Crum Sr. became a father as a 17-year-old junior at Tampa Hillsborough High School.

His son stayed in the Tampa Bay area when Crum Sr. enrolled at Miami, yet they continued to see each other as often as possible. Sometimes Crum Sr. would make the trip back home. On other occasions, Crum Jr. would head to South Florida.

Crum Sr. then spent most of his pro football career nearby with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the World League of American Football's Orlando Thunder and Arena Football's Orlando Predators before eventually settling down in Central Florida and spending more time with his son.

"Growing up, I didn't want him to experience the same things I did as far as not having a father figure always around," said Crum Sr., who now lives in Orlando and works as an Orange County (Fla.) sheriff's deputy.

The father-son lessons continued during Crum Jr.'s recruiting process.

Crum Sr. didn't guide his son toward any particular school. He instead told him to trust his own instincts and go with his gut.

That advice led Crum to Notre Dame.

"My dad told me that when you go on your visits, you'll know when it's right," said Crum Jr., who also had received offers from Michigan State, Tennessee and South Florida among others. "Coming here, I had that feeling. I just had that feeling when you look around and say, 'Man, this is where I want to be. This is where I want to go.' ''

His father supported the decision.

No matter how badly he wanted to beat Notre Dame in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Crum Sr. had grown to respect the school and its football program.

"Educationally, it's one of the best institutions in America,'' Crum Sr. said. "Area-wise, it's a great location because he's somewhat like me in that he's laid-back. It isn't a party town by any means, and we've never been that type. In my opinion, it was a perfect thing for him."

Of course, Crum Sr. has an easier time cheering for the Irish now that Notre Dame and Miami don't face each other anymore. The two teams haven't met since 1990, when Notre Dame defeated Miami 29-20 during the elder Crum's senior season.

Crum Jr. wonders who his father would root for if Notre Dame and Miami squared off in a bowl game this year.

"It would be a tough decision," Crum Jr. said. "Make sure you ask him. I need to know the answer."

Crum Sr.'s response revealed his divided loyalties.

"I would stand in the end zone and root for whoever scored at that end," Crum Sr. said. "I still have a great deal of Notre Dame gear as well as Miami gear. I wear them both. I remember one time I wore a Miami shirt on campus, and he said, 'Dad, don't do that.' I was like, 'Hey, I've got to represent my school sometime.' ''

Crum Jr. has done quite a good job of representing his own school.

The former three-star prospect has started 25 consecutive games over the last two seasons. Crum Jr. led the Irish with 100 overall tackles last season while also collecting 10 tackles for loss and four sacks.

Crum embraced his new role as a team captain this spring while also adjusting to Notre Dame's move to a 3-4 scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Corwin Brown.

"That's what you want from older guys," Brown said. "You want them to show good leadership, go out and play well, play consistent, play error free and play with a lot of passion. He's done that."

Crum Jr.'s performance has even impressed his tough-to-please father. Crum Sr. marvels at his son's leadership skills and knowledge of the game.

But he's not quite ready to say his son has become the best football player in the family.

After all, the elder Crum Sr. was a first-team All-American who played on a pair of national championship teams. Those honors have eluded Crum Jr. thus far.

Crum Sr. also wants to see his son reach the end zone at least once in his college career.

"Until he scores a touchdown in college, he won't compare,'' the elder Crum said. "I had a few interceptions and a couple of touchdowns on the defensive side of the ball. Until he gets to that point, he can't compare.''

If Crum Jr. does manage to score a couple of touchdowns for the Irish this fall, there's only one way to solve the debate over who's the better athlete.

They'll have to put that garbage can back in the street and settle things once and for all.

  • More notable father-son relationships in college football

    Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.




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