ALAMEDA – Eastern Michigan’s football program certainly was interested in Maxx Crosby. He had a stack of recruiting letters to prove it.
That didn’t immediately result in a scholarship. It came with an invitation to the Eagles’ annual prospects camp. If Crosby wanted his first and only Division I offer, he had to go earn it.
The Crosbys packed up the car and drove the roughly 1,200 miles from Colleyville, Tex. to Michigan, a well-worn path made annually to visit family. This one, however, had big stakes.
“I knew I had to kill it, and I feel like I did,” Crosby said on this week’s Raiders Talk podcast. “They ended up offering me and my best friend right after the camp. It was crazy, and an awesome experience.”
Crosby got his scholarship. Great. Now he had to do something with it. He parlayed his one shot at D-I football into a professional one with the Raiders, who selected Crosby in the fourth round of this year’s NFL draft.
“My goal out of high school was to play D-I, and they were the school to offer me,” Crosby said. “I was going no matter what. I wanted that opportunity and took advantage of it. It’s just like this year. I knew whoever took me, it was going to be the right fit. The Raiders believed in me and are letting me play my game. Now it’s up to me to take full advantage.”
Crosby’s getting good at capitalizing on golden opportunities. He got another one in Week 4 when Benson Mayowa was unavailable. Crosby had four quarterback pressures, two big run stops, two batted passes and a forced fumble in a career-high 44 defensive snaps. That’s worth a high factor grade, which Raiders coaches value nearly above everything else.
That led to more and more snaps and now Crosby’s a full-time, three-down player operating well in all aspects of the game.
“He has a relentless playing style that we like and I talk about factor grades more than sacks,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “A lot of people count sacks out there. Sacks, I put them on a reel: ‘Who’d you sack? When did you sack them? And who’d you beat and how’d you beat them?’ Crosby is batting down passes, he’s getting pressures. I know it doesn’t necessarily show up on the stat sack ledger, but he’s impacting the game and that’s the big thing we want from all of our defenders.”
All that from a kid expected to be a situational pass rusher this year. He shed knocks from his pre-draft profile, that he was a small-school kid who wasn’t strong enough and needs to improve against the run. He was someone NFL.com expected to be a backup or a special teams player.
“I had production the last two years of college, a lot of it,” Crosby said. “When I came to the NFL, I knew that I could get it done. They break down small pieces of your game before the draft, some that don’t even matter, and I just used that as another chip on my shoulder. I’m very confident in my abilities. I really don’t listen to outside noise. I just do what I do, and it has been working.
“I feel like I’ve always been slept on and overlooked, but that’s just more motivation.”
Crosby is impacting games, like he did in last week’s victory over the LA Chargers. He had just a half sack but led the team with seven pressures and forced two errant throws that became Raiders interceptions.
Fans love sacks, but Crosby simply is interested in making plays everywhere on the field and capitalizing on every chance to make contributions to a team that believed he could be something special.
“Sacks come in bunches. They will be there if I keep playing hard,” Crosby said. “Personally, I can’t worry about sacks and trying to get them If you’re thinking too much and getting sack happy, you’re going to do things the coaches aren’t going to be happy about. Just do your assignment and go 100 mph. That’s what I’m trying to do.”