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Football: Heart of Gold

Dan Murphy | Friday, November 7, 2008

It takes a pretty good excuse for Irish coach Charlie Weis to allow a player to miss practice. This summer fifth-year senior Maurice Crum Jr. came up with one that was good enough to miss a whole week of workouts.

Crum spent a week in Accra, Ghana bringing much-needed computers and books to a local orphanage.

Crum along with several others from Students Bridging the Information Gap (SBIG) arrived in Africa on June 10 to spend a week at the orphanage and deliver 15 new computers and over 2,000 donated books to the children there. The group also raised enough money to construct a brand new, air-conditioned computer lab to house the new machines.

“The trip was really special,” Crum said. “Having a chance to see someone else’s lifestyle and being welcomed into their culture really put my life in perspective.”

SBIG was founded by Crum’s former teammate Abdel Banda who started the organization after suffering a career-ending injury in his sophomore year. Banda included Crum in the project from the start.

“I got a pretty big heart as far as giving back, so naturally when he first started talking about it, one of the first people that he was talking to about it was me,” Crum said.

While in Africa, Crum helped set up the new library and taught some of the 300 children living at the orphanage how to use the computers. They also had some time for fun.

“I got to play a soccer game with the kids. They were younger kids, but they killed us,” he said. “Next time I go back, I think I’ll bring a football.”

The program intends to visit and donate to a different orphanage in Africa each year. Crum said he plans to attend and do as much as he can to help out.

Playing soccer with the kids inspired Crum to want to start his own charity called Cleats for Kids to distribute cleats throughout the continent. He is currently in a graduate class that teaches the ins and outs of getting help from the United Nations. Crum said that he plans on doing work to set it up once the football season slows down.

In the meantime, Crum has a few things to keep him busy on the field.

This Saturday against Boston College, Crum has a chance to crack the Irish record books. He is currently five tackles away from joining the top 10 tacklers in Notre Dame history. Crum is third on the team this season with 49 tackles through eight games, bringing his career total to 290.

“That is stuff you dream about. I’ve been in the right place a bunch of times to make a bunch of tackles,” Crum said.

He is also only 10 tackles away from passing former safety Tom Zbikowski for eighth place all-time. Bob Crable, who played in the late 1970s, has a safe hold on the No. 1 spot with 521 career tackles.

“Leaving my mark on this place is something special and something that at least I’ll be in the books for something,” he said.

Ironman

Crum already holds an impressive spot in the books with the longest games played and games started streaks in the program’s rich history. Crum was red-shirted his freshman season, since then he has played in every single game for the past four years.

“I feel like my greatest attribute is my toughness,” Crum said. “If I can help the team and be effective, I’m going to play.”

Crum has also started 44 of those 45 including 43 in a row to start his career. Crum’s one miss was two weeks ago against the Huskies in Washington. Crum sat out the first play because of the formation Washington opened the game with.

And he has never missed a game due to injury.

“It has a lot to do with will power. You’re going to get beat up, but for me the greatest cure for pain is for the next play to occur,” he said. “As long as you are out on that field and the adrenaline is pumping, nothing else really matters.”

Crum needed all the adrenaline he could muster during his sophomore season when he played the majority of the season with a back injury. Crum said that he frequently had back spasms throughout the season, but didn’t want to get the necessary surgery until the season had ended.

“Needless to say, it hurt, but my will power and my desire to help the team kept me on the field,” he said.

The back hasn’t been a problem since his surgery, but there are plenty of other bumps and bruises that a middle linebacker picks up during games.

“Bruised legs, turf toe, you know, just the regular kind of football stuff.”

Crum said that a big part of his will to play through injuries comes because he wants to set a good example for whomever may be watching.

“I don’t know who’s watching me or who wants to be like me and I don’t want them to get the wrong idea. There’s a difference between being hurt and being injured.”

Leading the way

Crum is very conscious of his role as a leader of the Irish team. He is one of only 17 players to be named captain twice. He was the only captain who was not a fifth-year senior and this year he was a shoe-in for the spot along with offensive captain David Grimes and special teams captain David Bruton.

“Being a leader of a team means that you have to be whatever your teams needs you to be,” Crum said.

Crum said that in a season full of many highs and lows, his job has changed on a weekly, or even daily basis. As middle linebacker and the oldest player in a young defense, Crum has had to be a rock for his team on and off the field this season.

Crum attributes most of his leadership skills to his father, Maurice Crum, Sr. who was a linebacker at the University of Miami.

“My dad has always been a very important factor in my life. Him being around and knowing the game, it helps,” Crum said.

Crum said that he was forced into being a veteran player pretty quickly with such a young team. He did get the chance to watch players like Brandon Hoyte and Corey Mays, which helped him learn how to work well together.

“They all had a role, one was the hammer one provided the energy. I had a different group of guys to study and take their skills and apply them to my own play,” he said.

Crum couldn’t define a specific role for himself because he has had to wear about every hat there is in the past four years for his team.

All of his hard work has certainly paid off. The entire nation is starting to recognize Crum’s work on and off the field. He is currently a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, which is given to a senior from each sport every year for their leadership on the field, in the classroom and in the community.

Crum graduated from Notre Dame last May with a degree in Sociology and enrolled in graduate school after the University approved him for a fifth year on the field.

Crum attributes the praise of that award to his family.

“The way that raised me and teaching me values, teaching me to be that well-rounded guy. [The award] is just a result of my upbringing,” Crum said.

The winner of the award is based on nation wide fan voting and will be decided on Dec. 10.

Between a degree from Notre Dame, a place in the Irish record books and annual trips to African orphanages Crum certainly has the résumé to win.