EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is the third in a five-day series about individuals from this area who play or coach in the National Football League. The NFL’s regular season begins today.
By DAVE HANNEMAN
NASHVILLE — Ryan Crow doesn’t come across as a lung-busting, screamin’ demon kind of NFL football coach.
But there’s a quiet intensity in the eyes of a man who, as much as anyone in the business, epitomizes the concept that actions speak louder than words.
“Coming from a small school, you have to be loud to be noticed,” said Crow, who this spring was hired as a defensive assistant coach with the Tennessee Titans.
Crow means “loud” in the figurative, not vocal, sense. And he did his best to get noticed, figuratively speaking.
In his four years at Arcadia High School, Crow never played on a team that won more than three games in a season. Blanchard Valley Conference coaches noticed his level of play, though, selecting him as a second-team all-BVC linebacker in 2005.
Colleges rarely offer scholarships to second-team all-league players from the smallest division schools in the state. So Crow walked on at Bowling Green, earned a scholarship by his junior season and helped the Falcons win a Mid-American Conference East Division co-championship in 2007.
“Playing football at Arcadia obviously meant a lot to me. I wanted to expand on that and take it to the next level,” Crow said.
“I had a great opportunity to walk on at Bowling Green. I took that opportunity with a vengeance and ended up earning a scholarship.”
Determined to get into the coaching profession, Crow applied the same drive and intensity in the classroom and coaches’ meetings that he displayed on the gridiron.
Following a short stint at the University of Florida after graduation from BGSU, Crow was named an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Purdue, then worked his way up to a graduate assistant working with the offensive line.
Crow joined the staff at Baldwin Wallace where, after one season as offensive line coach, he was named offensive coordinator. While there, Crow was one of just 39 college coaches selected to take part in the 2016 NCAA and NFL Coaches Academy, a “collaborative effort between NCAA leadership development and NFL Player Engagement to boost diversity in the college game.”
In 2017, Crow was a graduate assistant at Ohio State, working primarily with linebackers. With the Tennessee Titans going through a major coaching change this season, Crow had established not only some solid connections, but an impressive resume to land a job with the Titans.
Despite being one of the new guys on the Titans’ staff, Crow said he feels a real connection to new head coach Mike Vrabel and the message he brings to the team. Considering his background, it’s a message he can easily relate to.
“Coach Vrabel says it’s not how you got here, it’s what you do while you’re here that matters,” Crow said.
“That’s what I love about this game. A lot of these guys didn’t get a signing bonus. A lot of these guys weren’t drafted. We have guys here who played Division II, Division III in college. Some are small-town guys. Some are big-school guys.
“They all have their story, but a guy’s background or his status doesn’t matter. At the end of the day it’s all about a lot of people working toward the same goal.”
Earning a position on an NFL coaching staff has been a fast-track adventure for Crow. But there’s plenty to keep a small-town guy grounded, especially with men like Dean Pees, a Dola native and Hardin Northern graduate, Pees’ son Matt, and McComb native Craig Aukerman on the Titans’ staff as well.
“It funny, because we have all these BVC (Blanchard Valley Conference) guys around, and we’re always swapping stories,” Crow said.
“Coach Pees was before my time, but he’s got some great stories about Hardin Northern. And Craig, he’s from McComb and a BVC guy, too. Actually, on our vacation, we got together with him and his family, and all we did for two hours was tell stories about McComb and Arcadia and people we knew.
“It’s such a tight-knit group, the BVC and the Findlay area. I call back home to see what’s going on and make sure to get home for a week in the summer to visit those places. They all look new and different, but seeing the cornfields and the small stadiums … That’s what I love and that’s what I miss.
“Going back there and seeing everybody is always a blessing because that’s where home is.”
FRIDAY: Craig Aukerman