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DeKALB – When Huskies redshirt senior tight end Daniel Crawford collected his first reception since 2017, he had the mindset of doing something big with it.
Crawford caught the short pass and rumbled 45 yards on NIU’s second possession of the game Saturday against Illinois State to set up a field goal.
“My coach always says don’t get tackled by the first guy, so that’s instantly what I’m thinking every time I get the ball in my hands,” Crawford said. “Also, there was a blitz on the play, so I knew to get my head around instantly. … I was the hot read on that play, so Ross [Bowers] threw it right to me, and we practice all the time just getting straight down the field and just trying to go right now and not waste any side-to-side movement.”
Finishing plays through contact as Crawford did has a name attached to it.
“We talk about violent yards. We talk about the first 5 yards belong[ing] to the program. He’s catching the ball, getting up the field and then the yards after are the violent yards that we want,” coach Thomas Hammock said. “I thought those tight ends did a great job catching the ball … Crawford did a nice job catching it. I thought it was maybe a facemask on the play, potentially, but I thought he did a nice job finishing the play, getting us in a positive position to score some points.”
For Crawford, who missed all of the 2018 season, it’s was a bittersweet and inspirational feeling to get back on the field and watch the film afterward.
“It inspired me to see the fight that my teammates had throughout all four quarters,” Crawford said. “We knew it was going to be a four-quarter game, but when it actually is a four-quarter game, that’s when you see who is ready, who is really locked in and who is ready to play, and just watching that, it showed me we have some fighters on this team. I was inspired by those guys.”
Crawford hauled in three receptions for 75 yards, and Mitchell Brinkman added four for 51. Max Thrower added another reception.
Crawford also was complimentary of Liam Soraghan, who in recent months has packed a noticeable amount of muscle onto his 6-foot-7, 250-pound frame.
“I’ve watched him come in since he was a freshman, and he’s improved tremendously since [coming] in, and [he] put on a lot of weight and [got] stronger in the weight room, and his blocking [has improved],” Crawford said. “He honestly has one of the best punches that I’ve seen on the team.”