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Crawford leaves Merced
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Sept. 17, 2005. Ceres High grad Brandon Crawford circled the date on his calendar. He'll make his Modesto Junior College football debut against Merced College, his former team.

"I have a touchdown dance ready for them," said Crawford, whose confidence borders on cockiness.

Crawford decided to leave Merced because he wanted a fresh start.

"I can't knock the program," he said. "They helped me out a lot."

Crawford said he'll be able to showcase all of his talents at Modesto JC.

"I have exceptionally well hands and I want to use them," said Crawford, an all-purpose back.

Added Pirates coach Sam Young: "We're going to use him at the position where he can have the most success. I think his forte will be kick returning. He's the fastest guy on the team."

Crawford has spent countless hours in the weight room for the past eight months. Training six days a week at In-Shape City helped him add 38 pounds to his 5-10 frame. Crawford weighed just 145 pounds in high school.

"I've been working so hard since December," Crawford said.

In May, Crawford attended a combine for sophomores at San Jose State. He had an impressive outing. Crawford ranked in the top-10 with a 4.47 time in the 40-yard dash. He benched 185 pounds 19 times.

"I did the same weight just five times in high school," he said.

Crawford hopes his hard work and dedication will lead to a larger role on offense at Modesto JC. He wants to unseat starting running back Dannie Carr. Carr ranked 18th in the state in rushing last season. He gained 1,042 yards and scored four touchdowns.

"When my opportunity comes, I'm going to take it," Crawford said.

Crawford knows what's at stake.

"This will be a stepping stone to get to a university," he said.

Crawford played in just two games for Merced College in 2004-05. He was granted a medical redshirt after suffering a neck injury while returning a punt against Foothill College on Sept. 11.

"You know how it feels when your foot falls asleep," he said. "That's how it felt. It was burning."

Crawford missed the final eight games.

"I averaged 94 all-purpose yards per game before the injury," he said.

On Saturday, Modesto JC will open its 2005-06 season at home against Delta College. The Pirates scrimmaged against Mendocino College and American River College last week.

Crawford said he will be used as a running back, wide receiver and kickoff returner this season.

"We look pretty strong," Crawford said.

"I'm hoping we can get at least a share of the league title this year."

Crawford earned first-team, all-CCC honors on offense during his senior year at Ceres High School. He rushed for 954 yards on 159 carries and scored a school-record 17 touchdowns. He also caught 15 passes for 205 yards.

Several Division I football programs have expressed interest in Crawford, including Fresno State. Darnell Drew, Crawford's uncle, has helped with the recruiting process.

"I want to come back to Ceres and coach in the future," Crawford said. He's working towards a bachelor's degree in physical education. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff reporter of the Ceres (Calif.) Courier