North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.
Too often in this era of advanced analytics, those making personnel decisions in sports are too overwhelmed by numbers to believe what they see with their own eyes. The opposite is true with Jamison Crowder.
He’s one of those rare examples in which the eye test works against him, as his scouting report on NFL.com before the 2015 draft suggests. “Lacks desired NFL size,” it said under the heading of weaknesses. “Below-average length and hands, (offering) a small target radius for quarterbacks.”
It’s a stigma the 5-foot-9, 175-pound wide receiver has battled for as long as he can recall. But it’s one he’s managed to overcome at every level.
Crowder earned All-State honors and a Shrine Bowl invitation in football after catching 41 passes for 790 yards, rushing for 641 yards and scoring a combined 24 touchdowns as a senior at Monroe High School in 2010. He was also his conference’s Player of the Year as a point guard on a basketball team that went 32-1 and won the 1A state championship, and he also ran sprints in track.
But because of his size and the equally small size of his school, many college coaches shied away from him. Duke’s David Cutcliffe wasn’t among them, and he benefited from his ability to see in Crowder what others didn’t. Starting his final three years with the Blue Devils, the diminutive receiver tied the ACC record for career receptions with 283 while amassing 3,641 yards and 23 touchdowns. That’s in addition to his school-record five punt returns for scores.
But size became an issue again when it came time for the NFL Draft.
“I feel like if I was 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3, I probably would have went first round, just looking at my body of work from Duke,” Crowder said in 2016. “But the height thing has always been a knock on me.”
He ended up going to the Washington Redskins in the fourth round. And just as he had before, he’s proven the naysayers wrong. He’s caught 299 passes for 3,461 yards and 20 touchdowns in his five NFL seasons. In 2019, he was signed by the New York Jets to a three-year, $28.5 million contract with $17 million guaranteed — an awfully big deal for a player “lacking desired NFL size.”