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NFL feature Memory drives Crowell – Examiner Enterprise

Posted in Tattoo Nightmares on Aug 15, 2017

Akron Beacon Journal

BEREA, Ohio Whenever Isaiah Crowell heads home to Columbus, Ga., he visits the grave of Steven Lorenzo Miles Jr., and decorates it with flowers.

When Crowell brought a youth football clinic to his hometown in late May, he had in remembrance of Steven Lorenzo Miles printed on the back of the camp T-shirts.

A tattoo on the right side of Crowells neck reads RIP Stevo.

Miles was Crowells nephew who died Feb. 7, 2012, of sickle cell disease at the age of 17.

Hardest time in my life by far, Crowell told the Beacon Journal on Saturday before the 12th practice of Browns training camp.

Crowell, 24, a fourth-year NFL running back, is the youngest of Andrew and Debbie Crowells five children. He has one sister and three brothers. His sister is about 16 or 17 years older than him, and she had Miles when Crowell was 2 years old.

So Crowell grew up with his nephew and treated him like a younger brother.

He just wanted to be around me so much. I was like his idol, Crowell said. He couldnt play sports his whole life because he had sickle cell and was smaller. He really looked up to me, and I talked to him before every one of my games. He would tell me good luck and different stuff to get me motivated before the games. Really, its him I want to go out there and play my heart out for.

Miles died early in what would become the most difficult year of Crowells life. Crowell has 2012 tattooed across the fingers on his right hand to remind him about the suffering he endured and, eventually, overcame.

2012 was my worst year ever, but it made me, Crowell said. It made me the man I am today.

In June 2012, Crowell was dismissed from the University of Georgia football team after police found a gun under the drivers seat of his car at a vehicle checkpoint and arrested him on weapons charges. The charges were later dropped, but Crowell had to transfer to Alabama State University to continue his football career.

I learned a lot from the situation, Crowell said. Im not happy it happened because it kind of set me back, but at the same time, it matured me a lot as a man and it got me ready for the situation Im in today. (If it never happened, I) probably wouldve got up here and got in more trouble. So it was a blessing.

About the same time Crowell arrived at his new school in August, one of his closest friends since middle school, Brittany Meredith, suffered brain trauma in a car crash. She was comatose afterward and died Dec. 21, 2012.

A lot of adversity, Crowell said. That was the worst year I ever had, and I dont think it can get worse than that. So I think about it any time Im having a rough day or a rough week or a rough month. I just think about it like, If I can get through that, I can get through anything

Faith and the support of family and friends helped Crowell persevere, but the birth of his son, Jaedyn, on Sept. 8, 2012, provided the brightest light in a dark time. Jaedyn started kindergarten this past week, plays flag football and lives in Georgia with his mother, with whom Crowell remains on good terms even though they are no longer a couple.

(Jaedyns birth) was a big blessing, and that helped me a lot because out of everything that happened, said Crowell, who has a tattoo of his sons name on the left side of his neck. That was the one great thing that did happen (in 2012) and it kept me focused. I want to give him the things I was never able to have. I want him to have the best life.

Crowell gave Jaedyn the same middle name Miles had: Lorenzo. Crowell also wants to honor the memory of his nephew by continuing to excel on the football field.

When Crowells parents threw a going-away party for him before he left home for the University of Georgia, family and friends signed a poster and wrote encouraging messages on it.

Miles wrote, Never give up.

Thats what motivates me anytime I go out there on field, Crowell said. I cant give up no matter what the score is, no matter how down the season looks or whatever. Im still going to go out and give it my all.

Crowell reflected on his nephews message this past year during another rough patch.

Last summer, Crowell found himself at the center of controversy after he posted an illustration on Instagram of a masked man slashing the throat of a police officer. He passed the image along on social media after police in Louisiana and Minnesota fatally shot black men Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and before officers in Dallas were attacked during a march protesting the killings.

Crowell suddenly became public enemy No. 1 in the eyes of many Browns fans, and he often thought about what Miles would have said about the outrage he caused.

He would just say, Stay strong through it. I know your heart, Crowell said.

Crowell publicly apologized for his misdeed several times and went to great lengths in an effort to make amends. He attended the funeral of Patrick Zamarripa, one of the five officers slain by a gunman in Dallas, and donated his first game check last season to the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation.

The Browns stuck with him through the public relations nightmare and believe hes now on the brink of a bona fide breakout season.

In his third season since the Browns signed him as an undrafted free agent, Crowell rushed 198 times last year for a career-high 952 yards (4.8 average) and seven touchdowns to go along with 40 catches for 319 yards. And coach Hue Jackson has vowed to give him more carries this year after failing to use him enough during last seasons 1-15 debacle.

A guy whos not afraid to kind of run through the smoke, just hit a hole hard, and if you give him a little crevice of space, hes going to take advantage of it, center JC Tretter said of Crowell.

Offensive linemen love blocking for a guy like that.

Crowell is scheduled to play the season under a one-year, restricted-free-agent tender worth $2.746 million, then become an unrestricted free agent March 14. He fancies himself a top-five NFL running back and hopes to cash in similarly to the Atlanta Falcons Devonta Freeman, who signed a five-year, $41.25 million contract extension Wednesday.

If all goes well for Crowell, this year will be much more positive for him than 2012.

I feel like 2017 might be the opposite, he said. I feel like Im destined for a big year. I feel like its bound to happen. Ive got faith. Im just trusting in God because Hes the one who helped me get through that, and I feel like hes going to get me to the next level.

Crowell is also thinking about how Miles would be proud.

Hes the one who keeps me going, Crowell said. I know hes smiling down right now at the situation that Im in.

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NFL feature Memory drives Crowell – Examiner Enterprise

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