March 13, 2023

Humble Crawford Accepts Call To Hall

Larry Crawford BC Lions Lamont Meacham Toronto Argonauts 1983 Photo: Scott Grant

Truth be told, the call likely should have come a lot earlier for Larry Crawford. One quick conversation with the man reveals he is too humble to look at it that way. The Lions’ all-time leader in interceptions (51) and punt return yards (4.058) was almost speechless when talking about his inclusion in the 2023 Canadian Football Hall of Fame Class announced on Thursday.

“It’s still a shock. It’s what you always play for but once the call actually happens, it makes you pause for a bit. It’s obviously a huge honour,” said Crawford on getting the call to the Hall.

The four-time CFL All-Star and Grey Cup champion on perhaps the best Lions team ever in 1985 now spends most of his days teaching and coaching football at Valley Christian High School in Cerritos, California. Summers are largely spent following his son J.P. and the Seattle Mariners. Every now and again provides an opportunity for Larry to look back fondly on his nine-year career in orange which started thanks to another significant phone call.

“I wasn’t drafted by an NFL team and was still looking to play pro ball. Vic Rapp was the Lions head coach at the time in ’81 and the phone call I got from him changed my life,” remembers Crawford.

“One thing led to another. Being from Miami, I wasn’t too familiar with the Canadian game. I had no idea the memories it would give me. Winning the Grey Cup and losing a couple more were the biggest memories. We were good enough to be a dynasty. We owned Vancouver for those years. Those fans packed into BC Place and it was an awesome environment to play in.”

In addition to the All-Stars and his place atop the club record books, Crawford is one of only 11 Lions to suit up in three Grey Cup games. He also went there in 1983 and 1988, each bitter, one-point defeats to the Argonauts and Blue Bombers, respectively. They were that close to a dynasty, indeed. He made a big impact on the ’85 victory, helping break up a long Ken Hobart third-down pass with the Lions leading Hamilton by 13 points in the late stages.

Crawford said it was Rapp who helped set the tone for those young players before they were contenders by making sure they practiced hard every day. It ultimately carried over into real game action.

“Mervyn Fernandez and those receivers were constant trash talkers,” he laughed.

After receiving call to Hall of Fame, Lions all-time interceptions leader Larry Crawford reflects on brilliant Lions career.

Rapp was replaced by Don Matthews prior to 1983 and would leave a big impression on Crawford who would enjoy his first All-Star season when Matthews arrived.

“To me, Don was the ultimate players’ coach,” said Crawford.

“You could talk to him on both a football and a personal level. He would hold you accountable, both on and off the field.”

Another coach that had a big impact on the Hall of Famer was his secondary coach at Iowa State in the late 70s: a young Pete Carroll who was still six years away from his first NFL assistant position that came with Buffalo.

“I caught up with Pete a couple of years ago in Seattle,” explained Crawford.

“He hasn’t changed at all. It’s funny how life comes full circle with him and J.P. in the same city.”

The younger Crawford happened to be present at BC Place a few years back…

2005 Lions Honour Was Special For Crawford Family

Crawford looks back at his 2005 Lions Wall of Fame induction fondly, simply because J.P. and his daughters Eliza and Julia- got to experience that day with him.

“All my kids were born after I retired. They didn’t believe everything I had accomplished up here,” said Crawford with a laugh.

“Once they saw firsthand everything I was a part of, it was a proud moment for them. I think it also served as motivation for J.P. to take his pro path seriously. Baseball was always number one for him Eliza.”

Athleticism runs in the Crawford family as Eliza (softball) and Julia (volleyball) suited up at Cal State Fullerton. Dad is planning to appear at BC Place this summer around a Mariners homestand. On that particular night and when he officially gets inducted at the CFL Hall of Fame Game on September 16, the memories will come flooding back again.

“I really enjoyed myself in Vancouver,” he said fondly.

Matt Baker: