The accolades continued to pile up for Justin Crawford on Thursday as the Northwest Mississippi running back was named the 2015 Spalding® NJCAA Football Offensive Player of the Year.
“This is a huge honor for me,” Crawford said. “I’m really glad to see that all of the hard work has paid off. My teammates deserve a lot of credit for this award and I share it with them. I’m especially thankful for my coaches, offensive line and my quarterback for believing in me and putting me in this position to succeed. Northwest is a first-class institution and I can’t thank the people here enough.”
At or near the top of the NJCAA in numerous offensive categories, Crawford’s dominance propelled Northwest Mississippi to its first national championship since 1992. Carrying the load with a nation-leading 268 carries, the sophomore led the country with 1,610 yards rushing and ranked fifth with 16 touchdowns on the ground. Crawford surpassed the 100-yard mark in 10 of the Rangers’ 12 games this season.
Proving to be a valuable asset out of the backfield for Rangers freshman quarterback Gardner Minshew, Crawford hauled in 29 receptions for 394 yards and six touchdowns. The Columbus, Georgia, native topped the nation with 2,022 all-purpose yards, while ranking second in total touchdowns with 22 on the year.
Facing off against No. 2 Rochester (Minn.) in the NJCAA Football Championship Game, Crawford showcased a phenomenal performance that earned him offensive MVP honors. Setting the tone with a 58-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, Crawford led the top-ranked Rangers to a 66-13 victory. He finished the game with 15 carries for a game-high 144 yards and two touchdowns.
“We handled our business on and off the field this season, helping us reach our ultimate goal,” Crawford said. “Winning the conference and national championship was an awesome experience for me and my team.”
The NJCAA Football Offensive Player of the Year Award caps off a brilliant two-year career for Crawford in Senatobia filled with highlights. The career 3,161 yards and 30 touchdowns rushing are just two of the 15 school records he owns.
With a stock that is rising fast, Crawford has drawn the attention of several elite four-year colleges. According to 247sports, his suitors include power-five programs Arkansas, Georgia, Louisville and Texas A&M. Crawford however, isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“Now my focus shifts to my academics this spring and getting it done in the classroom,” he said.
Crawford is the third student-athlete from Northwest Mississippi to receive player of the year accolades. Former Rangers defensive back Jamaal Jackson was named NJCAA Football Defensive Player of the Year in 2002, while former quarterback Russell Evans won the award in 1992 when it was only presented to one player.
Courtesy of Michael Teague, NJCAA Assistant Director of Media Relations