Crouch signs with Toronto Argonauts of CFL

Updated: February 15, 2006, 8:21 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Former University of Nebraska star and 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch is back for another shot at a professional football career, this time in a new league, and this time playing his old college position.

The Toronto Argonauts of the CFL on Wednesday culminated several weeks of negotiations by signing Crouch, who will return to the quarterback position at which he starred for the Cornhuskers, and who team officials hope will be the eventual successor to the legendary signal-caller Damon Allen.

Contract details were not yet available, but it is believed that Crouch, who failed in his attempts to make three NFL franchises' rosters, received a three-year deal. It has long been speculated that Crouch's skills-set might translate better to the CFL game. Talks had heated up in the past week and it appeared Crouch would sign with the Argos late last week, but the two sides had to work to navigate beyond some last-minute contract hurdles.

"Eric is an incredible athlete and we are looking forward to him being a part of our team," said Toronto director of player personnel Greg Mohns, who auditioned Crouch last week. "He has worked hard to regain arm strength and he has a very quick release. He has outstanding ability to run with the football. It has been a very long process [pursuing him], one that started several years ago, but we are happy to be able to close the deal."

Allen, 42, has played 21 seasons. The brother of Pro Football Hall of Fame tailback Marcus Allen, and one of the most decorated players in CFL history, Allen has indicated he hopes to play two more seasons. That would provide the Argos time to develop Crouch and give him time to adjust to the CFL style of play.

Said Crouch on Wednesday: "This has been a long time coming. I can't wait to get to camp and to become a part of the Toronto community."

The Argonauts begin camp in May. If he makes the roster, Crouch will join quarterbacks Doug Flutie and Andre Ware as past Heisman Trophy winners to play for the Argonauts.

Crouch, 27, 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 camp of his rookie year, and still with an opportunity to either make the active roster or the practice squad, he left the Rams, citing the difficulties in having to learn the wide receiver spot, a position he had never played.

After the Rams relinquished his rights, the Green Bay Packers claimed Crouch on waivers in the spring of 2003, and offered him a chance to play quarterback. But facing a crowded depth chart, and slowed by injuries, Crouch walked away from the team two days into camp. He tried to make the Green Bay roster again in 2004, but was released.

In 2005, Crouch signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, who sent him to the NFL Europe League last spring, hoping to convert him to safety. But playing for Cologne in the springtime league, he struggled and Kansas City waived him after the NFLEL campaign.

Crouch had a celebrated college career, in which he finished as one of only 13 players in history to rush and pass for 1,000 yards in a season. He is one of only three Division I-A players to throw for 4,000 yards and run for 3,000 yards in his career, and he holds the NCAA record for the most career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.