ATHENS, Ga. -- The TV cameras had been set up well in advance, pointed at the empty stool where Isaiah Crowell would sit. Other media members lingered, having staked out the area well in advance.
Finally the most talked-about freshman the Georgia football team has had in some time sat down. And then, for 12 minutes and 20 seconds, Crowell, a former Carver High standout, somewhat nervously met the press.
“I don’t like speaking. But I have to,” he said at the end, smiling.
In Crowell’s case, don’t mistake shyness for a lack of confidence.
Several times, in his first interview as an official member of the Georgia football team, he was given a chance to lower expectations. But he didn’t.
He came close when he was first asked whether being seen as the savior of the team, perhaps even the program, was too much pressure.
“No sir,” Crowell answered, before adding: “I don’t really think about it a lot. Because my coach tells me I’m not the savior. I’m just coming out here trying to work hard, trying to help my team.”
But he didn’t shirk from the comparison with Marcus Lattimore and Michael Dyer, the tailbacks who as freshman had huge impacts, respectively, at South Carolina and Auburn.
“I think I can,” Crowell answered when asked if he could have the same effect as those players. “Lattimore had a great season last year. I think he helped his team a lot. And I think I can do the same.”
Crowell’s name has been on the lips of Georgia fans for some time, dating back to before the end of last season, when the running game was a weakness. His commitment on national cable television in February was considered the most important of an already heralded recruiting class.
Since then, his every movement and action -- whether it be an imposter Twitter account, or rumors of his summer workout habits -- have created a stir. So it’s no surprise that he was asked often Friday about an apparent minor groin injury that caused him to miss Friday’s practice.
“It’s all right,” he said. “I was just running hard. It’s nothing major. I’m just kind of sore.”
Crowell said his main emphasis so far has been pass protection. Coach Mark Richt had indicated that Crowell’s ability to pick up that skill would be the most important toward Crowell seeing the field right away.
But that hasn’t been the only adjustment from high school so far.
“At Carver, sometimes I sat around and did what I wanted to do,” Crowell said. “But up here I’m working hard a lot.”
Off the field, Crowell said he’s been trying to lay low, aware that fans will recognize him. He did admit that the attention is “kind of overwhelming sometimes,” but he has a strong Columbus-based support system: Fellow freshman Quintavious Harrow and sophomore linebacker Jarvis Jones are also Carver grads, and senior fullback Bruce Figgins hails from Shaw High School.
Harrow, who said he and Crowell have been best friends since kindergarten, thinks Crowell has been handling everything in stride.
“Life’s been good for him,” Harrow said. “He loves Georgia. He likes how they give him a lot of reps, and he just works hard at everything he does.”
A few hours after Crowell’s interview, workers at the football building were putting up a picture of Herschel Walker in a display case. Crowell has already been compared to the Heisman trophy winner and Bulldog legend, before even taking a college snap.
Crowell and Walker actually spoke earlier this summer, when the legend visited the team.
“He told me to keep a level head and work hard and help my team,” Crowell said.
Then Crowell was asked if Walker seemed to know who he was.
“Yes sir,” he said.