Black 41 Flash Reverse to the Glory Days: Eric Crouch, Still Chasing a Dream

Posted: June 23, 2011 in Sports
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I remember where I was when Eric Crouch, Mike Stuntz, and Thunder Collins collaborated to make “The Play.” 

It was 2001 and Oklahoma and Nebraska had met in an mid-season clash of the titans.  The Huskers were ranked #3 in the nation and the Sooners held the #2 spot.  The Huskers were winning 13-10 when then-coach Frank Solich decided to roll his Big Red Dice. 

He called “Black 41 Flash Reverse.”  A play that called for Crouch to hand the ball of to Collins, who then pitched it to Stuntz, who then tossed it back to Crouch.  Crouch caught the perfectly lofted pass, turned on his fastest-white-man-on-turf afterburners and flew into the endzone for six.

I was in my parents’ living room and as Crouch accelerated past the Oklahoma safeties I distinctly remembering screaming so loudly that I’m shocked my father didn’t spontaneously put me up for adoption.  My Brother and I wound up like major league baseball pitchers and swung at one another attempting to shatter the existing world record for “hardest high-five ever.” 

However, in the pandemonium of the moment, we whiffed.  Our hands, flying with Jean Claude Van Damme-like speed and power, clipped each other and my brother’s hand ricocheted off of mine and slammed into my face fingernails-first.  His nails raked down my face, accidentally clawing my face like an Ahman-Green-jersey-wearing Freddy Krueger.

With blood on my face, bellowing like a maniac, I could’ve been mistaken for the title character in a low-budget remake of “Rocky.”  My mother, horrified by this Viking-like blood celebration in her living room, hovered anxiously as I demanded that I celebrate until well after our extra point was made.

That was, perhaps, my fondest memory of Eric Crouch. 

He won the Heisman that year, Solich got unfairly canned shortly thereafter and our program promptly slipped into the Dark Ages of Bill Callahan’s devising.  Stuntz went on to play more wideout, and eventually safety for the Huskers, and Thunder Collins murdered a guy.  No, seriously.

Crouch got drafted in the 3rd round by the Saint Louis Rams, who felt he could be a dynamic wide receiver/kick returning hybrid, but after realizing that he wouldn’t be allowed to try out at quarterback Crouch packed up and left.

Husker fans reacted in a crimson and white, collective, knee-jerk to his quitting the team.  I can’t say that I didn’t feel the same way at the time.  Here was my hero; our quarterback.  He was a local Nebraska boy who had lifted the Cornhuskers with his indomitable play for season after season and electrified Cornhusker nation with his play.  And he quit. 

Crouch was crushed by local media and fan reaction.  People were aghast that an athlete of his caliber wouldn’t “even try” a new position.  What he did was complex, had too many layers and too much backstory to really ever dissect without sitting down for an interview that I certainly couldn’t get.    He kicked around the Canadian league and tried out for several other NFL teams but, ultimately, faded out like a comet that briefly shot across the night sky.

He’s said recently that he was “young” and that he wouldn’t do things the same way if he could go back in time.

Well, maybe he can.  Or he can at least try.

Hop into the DeLorean and burn rubber, folks.  Let’s see if we can’t get that bad boy up to 88 Miles per hour.  Eric Crouch is attempting to turn back the clock.  And I couldn’t be more excited. 

Crouch has recently been getting his throwing arm back in shape by trying out for the Omaha Nighthawks.  It’s been nearly 10 years since he last put on pads and attempted to recapture some of the glory that he once had in such ready supply.  And what better team to do it on than the Omaha Nighthawks. 

The team, almost named the “Omaha Zombies” after letting the fans choose the team’s name before some publicist undoubtedly pulled the eject button on that failed social experiment, has truly become a squad full of the undead.  With names like Maurice Clarett, Ahman Green, and Jeff Garcia on last year’s team, the Nighthawks’ roster read more like a George A. Romero script than a functional football team.

(*Author’s note: At this point, would anyone really be that surprised if Romero had a script about a zombie football team that was in production somewhere?  Romero is the Raising Cane’s of directors.  He literally only has one thing on the menu, but it’s usually pretty damn good.)

As soon as Crouch announced his comeback the battle lines were drawn.  Some people were excited to see this living legend buckle up his chinstrap once more, and some bitter hacks with keyboards and too much time on their hands (read: people just like me) felt the need to criticize his decision to attempt a comeback after all these years.

I figure, why shouldn’t Crouch give it another go?  Can you imagine a world where people kept pursuing their dreams?  A world where even from base camp we continued to look towards the mountain’s peak?  Crouch is just trying to fan his spark once more into a flame; to give us all a glimpse at the true heat of competitive fire that burns within the chests of the best of the best.

Is he a surefire star?  Absolutely not.  But the thought of watching Crouch sprinting once more downfield, white-lightning illuminated by stadium lights and flashbulbs is enough to make me want to see him come back; to have another chance for an attempted high-fiving that collapses under complete and utter pandemonium into a full on face-clawing makes me root for him.

Crouch coming back is a gamble.  His body isn’t in true game shape, for people who lack true perspective he could risk damaging his legacy.  But football is a game of calculated risks.  No one, perhaps, knows that better than Eric Crouch.  This latest risk is only the latest Black 41 Flash Reverse of his career.  Let’s hope it ends up in him leaving yet another indelible mark on a legacy full of them.

Now. . .if only we can get Stuntz on the team.  And if only Thunder Collin’s could get out on work release.


  1. Sue Tolles says:

    if he makes the team, and if he decides to play, I will enjoy watching him as I did when he played for NU. I hope he comes back.

  2. […] Eric Crouch’s Black 41 Flash Reverse reception against Oklahoma, which I’ve already detailed my love for extensively, and Tommie Frazier’s 62-yard well-no-shit-he-should’ve-won-the-Heisman dash against […]

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