ATHENS - Arthur Lynch was supposed to spend Thursday talking to the media about his ascension to the role of starting tight end, and the expectations that come with it.
Instead, the sophomore from Massachusetts ended up spending about five minutes giving a full-throated and candid defense of the much-maligned Isaiah Crowell.
Crowell, the freshman from Columbus, had a very up-and-down season. But Lynch, who operates as Crowell’s older brother in a brother’s keeper program within the team, offered an insightful look at the player.
“I have seen him mature from the day he’s got here, when we had to drag him to workouts, to now, when he’s the leader of his group during workouts,” Lynch said.
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Lynch pointed to the expectations that greeted Crowell upon his arrival as the culprit behind a lot of the rumors and criticism.
“The person I’ve been most impressed with, and who everyone I think wrongly scrutinized the whole year was Isaiah,” Lynch said. “You know, you ask these high expectations of a kid who’s 18 years old, it’s such a different game than high school. And let’s face it, he had instant success, and people are so demanding of his (being) a savior, the idea of the next Herschel. That’s unfairly suited to him.
“He’s really just a quiet humble kid. He’ll never really talk back. He likes to chill, he low key. He’s a kid that I think will make a lot of noise this year if he keeps doing what he’s doing. But I’m extremely proud of the way he’s handled this pressure post-season and now this preseason leading up to spring.”
Lynch also defended Crowell over his injuries; last season Crowell suffered five different injuries, and during the SEC championship game was booed by fans as he exited with his ankle injury. Lynch brought up the booing.
“I thought that was one, disrespectful, and two, it’s like I don’t think anybody understands the pain that he’s going through right now,” Lynch said.
Again, Lynch thinks Crowell was unfairly criticized over the injuries because of his high expectations.
“I thought he grinded through it enough. He sat out the one game and tried to play in that one game, the SEC championship game when we needed him,” he said. “You could just tell in practice he was hurt. It wasn’t like he was just gonna cop out in the game because ‘I can’t reach the level of success I’ve had in prior games.’ He was legitimately hurt, and fought through it more than anyone could expect. I was just proud of him for going out there and having some carries.”
Lynch compared Crowell to former Georgia receiver A.J. Green, in that both had kind of a laid-back demeanor that in Lynch’s estimation disguised their true drive to succeed.
“A.J., you would never see anywhere. We go out to eat, A.J.’s rarely out,” Lynch said. “He was real relaxed. But when he was on the field he was a real competitor. And I don’t think anyone ever took shots at A.J. over that.”
Lynch expanded a bit more on what went wrong for Crowell when he first got to campus last summer, when as he said earlier, teammates had to drag him to workouts. Lynch said it was Crowell adjusting to a more rigorous offseason program than he was used to.
“You could just tell in the summer workouts – when you get to college everything changes: Academically, workouts, the season. I don’t think he ever had to really go to workouts, demanding two hours a day,” Lynch said. “And it’s different for everyone. I think everyone just used him as a prime example just because he’s Isaiah, he’s a highly-touted guy, this and that. But there’s other guys that had the same problems he did, they were just red-shirting.”
Knowing Crowell well, Lynch doesn’t think he is very aware of all the criticism he receives from fans and media.
“I really don’t think he reads the articles. The Red and Black, I don’t think he’d ever read it,” Lynch said. “I think he’s a kid that he loves football to death, but if he didn’t play football he wouldn’t mind that much. Because when he’s on the field he’s a competitor and he gets after it. But when he’s off it, he hangs out with Quintavious (Harrow), Q, that’s his high school buddy, and he’s fine. I think all he wants to do is succeed for him and his family back home, and obviously for his teammates. And he’s realizing how he can do it.”
A final thought from Lynch on Crowell:
“You can see he wants to get better, and he’s finally getting it,” Lynch said.