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CHS graduate Crawford leading a productive life
Brandon Crawford didn't realize it at the time but Modesto Junior College football coach Sam Young did him a huge favor during his sophomore year in 2006. After serving a two-game suspension for fighting, the Ceres High graduate was stripped of his starting role at running back.

"The punishment I received was a life-changing experience and helped me become who I am today," said Crawford, 23. "I haven't got in trouble for two years. When I was younger, I felt invincible at times. I was trying to impress everybody else instead of being myself."

In December, Brandon signed a one-year contract with the Sioux City Bandits of the Indoor Football League. He plans to complete his education at Dakota State University in the fall of 2009. He's 16 units shy of earning a bachelor's degree in P.E.

"I look at it as a blessing just to be able to play still," Crawford said when asked about getting the opportunity to compete at the professional level.

Sioux City offered Brandon a contract after the 5-foot-11, 191-pounder completed a battery of tests during a private workout at Tyson Event Center.

He completed the 40-yard dash (4.44 seconds), shuttle (4.20 seconds) and three-cone drill (7.1 seconds). Crawford bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times and had a vertical leap of 37 inches.

"They were really impressed," said Crawford, who will handle kickoff return duties for the Bandits.

Brandon will report to training camp on Feb. 27.

The team will pay for his rent, medical insurance and gym fees.

Sioux City's 14-game season will get underway on March 15 with a road contest against the Billings Outlaws of Montana.

"In arena football, the game is faster," Crawford said. "It's a lot more intense and constricted. With my versatility, I think I can help the team."

Crawford started at safety and returned kickoffs during his senior year at NAIA school Dakota State University last fall.

"I switched from running back to defensive back during the first week," he said.

It was a fairly smooth transition.

Brandon tallied 47 tackles, one sack, one interception and two pass breakups in nine games for the 3-7 Trojans.

Crawford ran back a kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown, registered six tackles and broke up a pass during Dakota State University's 40-24 win at Minnesota-Morris during Week 2 on Sept. 13.

Brandon went to school and played football at LaGrange College in 2007. He resided in Georgia with his mother, brother and sister.

"It was a good change for me," said Crawford, who joined a prayer group for athletes and cut hair on campus. "Nobody knew my past. I got to re-invent myself."

Brandon totaled 493 rushing yards and five touchdowns as a junior for the winless Panthers (0-10) of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Crawford made history in a 38-21 loss at Brevard College during Week 8. He became the first LaGrange player to tally two TDs on the ground in one game. Brandon broke loose for a 98-yard scamper in the third quarter and scored from 3 yards out in the first half. He finished the contest with 167 all-purpose yards.

Three weeks earlier, Crawford had two scores-one rushing and receiving-in a 30-17 setback at Louisiana College.

In his final collegiate game, Brandon had a team-high 82 yards rushing on 16 carries as the visiting Panthers fell 35-21 to Kentucky Wesleyan.

Crawford attended Ceres High School during his junior and senior years. He lived with his grandfather. Charles provided encouragement.

"He expects a lot from me," Brandon said. "He wants me to be successful. He keeps me going."

Crawford ran for 954 yards and scored a school-record 16 touchdowns during his final season with the Bulldogs, who posted a 7-4 overall record, placed second in the Central California Conference standings and secured a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth for the first time in eight years. A first-team, all-league selection, Brandon also caught 15 passes for 205 yards.

Keith Crawford, Brandon's father, was an all-state running back at Sacred Heart Cathedral High School in San Francisco.

"I idolized my dad growing up," he said. "I felt like I had to carry on the torch."

Brandon hopes to play in the NFL someday, but knows the odds are long.

"That's the ultimate goal," he said. "If I don't make it, I'm not going to be mad, because I can't say I didn't give it my all."

After his playing career is over, Brandon envisions himself coaching high school football.

Once a troubled athlete, Crawford has learned from his mistakes and has a strong desire to make a difference in this world.

"I believe my calling in life is to help people," he said. "I want to make my family proud."

Brandon will return home this week. He leaves for Sioux City at the end of February.

"I embrace the fact I'm from Ceres," Crawford said. "I really take pride in that."