Ex-Heisman winner vying for spot at safety

Originally Published: March 24, 2004
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

So maybe a third time around, and another new position, will be a charm for Eric Crouch.

The 2001 Heisman Trophy winner, who twice previously bolted NFL training camps and seemed to be retired from the game for good, has been reinstated by Green Bay from the "reserve/retired" list and is expected to participate in the Packers' offseason conditioning program and spring minicamps.

This time, it will be as a defensive back, likely at safety.

Eric Crouch
Crouch
Crouch, 25, has been considering another shot at the NFL for the last few months. Green Bay essentially has no risk, because Crouch will earn the rookie minimum base salary of $230,000 if he makes the team, and the Packers did not invest a signing bonus in him.

The former Nebraska star was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the third round of the 2002 draft and signed a three-year, $1.3 million contract to play wide receiver. But late in training camp, and still with an opportunity to make the team or the practice squad, he left the Rams, citing the difficulties of making the transition to wide receiver.

After the Rams relinquished his rights, the Packers claimed him on waivers in the spring of 2003, and Green Bay officials offered Crouch a chance to play quarterback. But with a crowded depth chart, and slowed by injuries, Crouch walked away from the Packers two days into training camp.

Now he is back for another, and likely final, attempt to prove he belongs in the league.

In a celebrated college career, Crouch appeared in 42 games for the Cornhuskers and started 38 of them. He is one of only 13 players in college football annals to both rush and pass for over 1,000 yards in a season.

Crouch is one of only three players at the Division I-A level to throw for 4,000 yards and run for 3,000 yards in his career and he also holds the NCAA career record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.

In addition to the Heisman Trophy, he also captured the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award for 2001 and the Davey O'Brien Quarterback Award. He is the most decorated quarterback in Nebraska history and was one of the most prolific offensive players in recent history of the college game.

He completed 312 of 606 passes for 4,481 yards, with 29 touchdown passes and 25 interceptions. Crouch carried 648 times for 3,434 yards and scored 59 rushing touchdowns.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.