Corey Crawford's nerves are wrecked. With the NFL draft beginning Thursday, the Carver grad has no idea where he may get picked.
Crawford, a defensive end who wrapped up his career at Clemson in December with a blowout victory against Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl, has talked to his agent enough to feel confident he'll be selected at some point.
But the uncertainty is agonizing.
"I'm stressing a lot about it," he said in a phone interview earlier this week. "My agent has really been telling me that he feels like I have earned that right to be selected, so I feel like I'll get drafted. I just don't know when."
He's not expected to go in the first two rounds. But he doesn't really care about that. He just wants to prove he's worthy of playing in the pros. And after a four-year career at Clemson that saw him make 35 starts, collect 155 tackles (25.5 tackles for loss), six sacks and 34 quarterback hurries, he feels he knows his best attributes.
"The way I play the run and the physicality I bring to the game. Being able to be a big, thick guy that can run to the ball and tackle," he said. "And in the passing game, getting my hands up to bat down balls. Pressure the quarterback, get him out of the pocket and things of that nature."
He's also heard enough critiques from scouts and coaches to know what parts of his game need work.
"(They want) me to have more of a quick-twitch and be able to get to the quarterback more often," he said. "They want to see more sacks. They wanted me to get better upper body strength, too."
To try to make improvements, Crawford — who calls himself a "late bloomer," not picking football until seventh grade — turns to one of his former Carver teammates.
"When I got to high school, I looked up to Jarvis Jones," he said of the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker. "When he went off to USC and went to Georgia and even now in the pros, I've looked up to him. I look at his game. What does he do that I could use for my own game?"
Despite starting later than others, Crawford recalled the instant he knew the NFL was a possibility. In a game against North Carolina his freshman season, Crawford faced off against Tar Heel offensive guard Jonathan Cooper, who went on to become the No. 7 overall pick by Arizona in the 2013 draft. Though Crawford's numbers weren't dazzling — finishing with one tackle, two pass breakups and two quarterback pressures in 27 snaps — it was enough to convince him he had a shot.
"That kind of put in my mind that I could play against the best of the best," Crawford said.
But like every other hopeful draftee, all he can do now is wait. If the call comes, it will be in a low-key environment: at home, surrounded by his family and friends. There won't be a party, though. For Crawford, it's more about being able to savor the time spent around those dearest to him — and one who can't.
"I'm going to be very excited. It's a moment that I've been waiting for for a long time. The emotions are going to be there," he said. "And it will be in remembrance of my mother, knowing this is something she would have been very proud to have been a part of. It's going to mean a lot if I get that call and I'm able to say that I'm living out my dream."
Beasley hoping for NFL opportunity
David Beasley, Crawford's teammate at both Carver and Clemson, is also holding out hope that he'll play in the NFL. Beasley, who started 30 games on the offensive line during his time at Clemson, might get picked in the final rounds, if he's drafted at all. But unlike Crawford, he's not anxious in the slightest.
"I'm not too worried about it. I'm just going to sit around and wait, take my mind off things," he said. "Whatever team I go to, I'm going to perform and try to make it."
If it came down to it, Beasley would prefer to go undrafted than to wind up a late-round pick.
"You do have a lot more freedom," he said of being an undrafted free agent. "I would rather be a free agent instead of a being a sixth- or seventh-round pick. You might get stuck with a team that has a lot of people at your position. In those late rounds, you're basically in the same (spot) as a free agent; you're just not stuck with a team."
If the NFL doesn't pan out, Beasley has a backup career in mind.
"I'm going to play until I can't play anymore," he said. "I really want football to be my career, but I'd love to work in law enforcement after that. We'll just see how it goes."