Behind the smell of fresh quesadillas exiting the oven and the sound of a sizzling crunchwrap being placed in a paper bag for delivery, there is a worker that puts in the hours to create these culinary delights.
But in one case, that same worker rushed for 1,184 yards for a Division I football team just months after working his final shift in the fast food industry. That employee would be West Virginia senior running back Justin Crawford, who has ensured hard work is a constant factor in his life, whether behind the counter at Taco Bell or in front of 60,000 fans at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Crawford initiated his college career at Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he led the school to a national championship at the closure of the 2015 season. The running back’s successes in The Magnolia State were well documented. He rushed for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns at Northwest Mississippi, even earning recognition as a featured opponent in a popular Netflix documentary, “Last Chance U.”
But although the athletic talent was always present in the agile running back, Crawford worked diligently to increase his grades to play at the Division I level. The effort once again paid off.
“Grades are tremendously important, and class is also as important as grades,” Crawford said. “Without the grades, none of this football stuff really matters.”
A senior at West Virginia, Crawford is currently nearing his degree in multidisciplinary studies, and he is set to graduate from the University in May. His soon-to-be alma mater was one of several programs that recognized his talents and abilities at the running back position following his tenure in Mississippi. Upon arriving in Morgantown, Crawford immediately rushed to a Taco Bell, working long hours to earn cash on his newly acquainted campus.
“I knew I had to do something, and I knew the best way to get money was to work for it,” Crawford said. “I don’t necessarily like asking people for stuff because I know I can get it on my own if I put myself up for it and put in the work.”
Once the 2016 football season commenced, Crawford finally left Taco Bell and started suiting up in blue and gold for head coach Dana Holgorsen’s program. Through 23 games as a Mountaineer, Crawford has produced over 2,000 yards on the ground for a staple top 25 program, additionally reaching the end zone on 12 occasions.
“It was different,” Crawford said on his recruitment to West Virginia. “I liked the vibes (Coach Holgorsen) gives off. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing and he knows the game of football very well. From the time I got here, he’s been very loyal to me.”
The senior from Columbus, Georgia has posted numbers that will certainly draw eyes from NFL scouts. Crawford plans on testing the waters of professional football, and he will maintain the mentality on working for his goals, an outlook that has propelled him from a community college to a Taco Bell to Morgantown.
“If you work hard enough and you are willing to sacrifice some things, the reward will outweigh the work,” Crawford said.