Since Gary Crowton was introduced to the BYU community back in December as the man who would take over the proud traditions of Cougar Football, much has been made of his high-flying offense and his hard-nosed defense.
However, little has been mentioned about Gary Crowton, the man, the father, the teacher and motivator. Following is a question-and-answer session with the 12th man to lead to lead the BYU football program: Gary Crowton.
Q: You started your coaching career at BYU and have since traveled all over the country. What does returning to BYU and Utah County mean to you?
A: I'm excited to be here. When I first got into coaching, I felt like I had to go where the jobs were, and while I was out there, I had to make some kind of mark, or do good enough where someone else would give me another opportunity. Things just kept working out and I had more and more opportunities. When I had the opportunity to come back here, it was interesting. It wasn't about money anymore, or it wasn't about prestige, it was all about being in the place where I wanted to be. BYU is not a stepping stone for me. This is where I want to be.
Q: With a wife and six children, how do you juggle to responsibilities of a head coach, husband and father?
A: Well, I have a wonderful wife. She gives me a lot of support. Second, the Church. The Church always helps because it has things for the family to always be involved with and helps the family with direction. Also, coaching presents the opportunity for my family to be around and to be involved. With two of our children still at home, it has been a little harder for my wife to be as involved as she has been in the past, but this profession gives my family the opportunity to be involved. They can come to work with me sometimes, spring games, watermelon busts. In other professions, some people don't have those kinds of opportunities. I just try and take every opportunity to have my family involved.
Q: What advice would you give to young people looking to make a difference?
A: I recommend two things. First, I recommend they get an education. Second, I would recommend that they take advantage of the opportunity to serve a mission. Education opens doors. It teaches a person how to learn. A mission is the same thing. A mission, along with serving others, which is a great thing, teaches you about yourself. There's a lot of disappointment, there's a lot of times when you feel so close to the Lord and other times when you feel so hurt because the work isn't going as well as you would like. A mission is a tough thing, but it teaches so many lessons-lessons you will use for the rest of your life.
Q: Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
A: I think the greatest influence I have had in my life has been my family. I've been blessed with great parents, great grandparents, and wonderful sisters. I had a really great childhood. I think that has been the best influence. As far as professionally, I've learned a lot of different things from a lot of different people. I basically learned philosophy from Coach Edwards. I've never deviated from the philosophy from throwing the ball. It's something he taught and it is something I have always believed in. From an organizational standpoint, Tom Coughlin was a very, very influential person. He taught me about being organized, being on-time, following schedules-more than just the Xs and Os. It was a great experience for me to be with Tom at Boston College. It was a transitional period. But because of his organization and attention to the details, we were successful. We won nine games one year, went to a couple bowl games and had a great experience. There are a lot of others who have been an influence. Basically, I just try and find those good people out there and try to follow their strengths.
Q: What should BYU football fans expect from Gary Crowton?
A: The one thing I can guarantee: I will do my best. Sometimes you can't always control the number of wins and how the game turns out. That's why the ball is shaped so funny. You just never know which way it is going to bounce. The staff will also be disciplined. The staff will work hard and do their best. We will prepare well. I think it is evident in what we have accomplished so far. E.J. Caffero has done a great job with the academics. We have had very few academic problems. Coach (Jay) Omer has done a terrific job with conditioning and getting these guys ready to play. We have had a lot of support in that area. I think all the coaches supported what we were trying to accomplish in the conditioning area. Everybody, including the players and coaches, has given their full support. From the coaching staff to the support staff, everybody has come together to work towards the success of this program. I can't promise wins, but I can promise we will be prepared each week and we will do our very best.
Q: When you have free time, what do you enjoy doing?
A: I enjoy mowing my lawn. I also like to fiddle with my pond. I have a little pond in my back yard with a little waterfall. It's relaxing. I can just go out there and relax.
Q: What is your game-day routine?
A: On Friday morning, I spend as much time as I can with my wife and family. After spending some time with her, I come in to the office and finished getting prepared for Saturday. Things are always a little different now with all the different game times. It was easy to have a routine when the games were always at one o'clock. Now, if I have time, I like to go through the schedule and prepare myself. I like to prepare myself to the point where I feel confident. I go over the game plan and maybe go for a run. I like to get cleaned up and feeling good as we go into the game.
Q: What has been your most memorable coaching experience.
A: There have been so many different memorable experiences. Of course I remember the win at Alabama, beating top-ranked Notre Dame when I was at Boston College and even the Nebraska game. Even though we didn't win, I thought our guys did a great job and that is one of the only loses I remember, just because I thought we played hard. But most of my memories deal with individual or the private moments I have had with the players. When I look a guy in the eye and I see how he has matured and developed, those are the best memories. Looking at a guy and seeing the confidence in his eyes and how he has developed, is what I think of most often. It's not about winning; it's about all the moments of growth and knowing that in some small way, you've been some kind of influence in a young man's life. Those are my best moments.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: Cool Hand Luke
Q: What is your favorite book?
A: My grandmother, just before she passed away, recommended "Power of One". Not the self-help book, but the novel. It was a great book and has special meaning to me, because of my grandmother. I like the attitude of the book, not necessarily the ending, but the attitude.
Q: Who is your favorite musician?
A: For years I have always liked The Gambler, Kenny Rogers.
Q: What is your favorite Church hymn?
A: Well, it is actually a Primary song, "I am a Child of God."
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: That's easy; I'll eat anything.
Q: What is your favorite color?
A: Dark blue!
Another Coach From Orem
Orem, Utah is the hometown for former BYU Head Coach LaVell Edwards and for new Cougar Head Coach Gary Crowton. While Edwards graduated from Lincoln High, Crowton is a graduate of Orem High in 1975.
That 1975 class at Orem High featured Crowton quarterbacking the Tigers to the Region Four Championship as a two-year starter. Crowton was on the Orem High football team that had BYU Athletic Director Val Hale, John Ramage (son of current BYU defensive line coach Tom Ramage) and Lennon Ledbetter.
Ledbetter was recruited by several schools and went on to play for the U.S. Military Academy (Army) before transferring to play for BYU. John Ramage also played for BYU, but Crowton did not end up playing for the Cougars.
Then Orem High Football Coach Tom Molen tried to entice several college teams into recruiting Crowton. BYU was not interested in Crowton as a player because the Cougars had a log-jam at quarterback with Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, and Dan Hartwig, all of whom went on to play in the NFL.
Molen tried tapping his former Montana State teammates Dennis Erickson (now at Oregon State) and Joe Tiller (now at Purdue) along with another acquaintance, Pokey Allen (former Boise State head coach), but the only school interested in taking Crowton was Snow College. Molen kept in touch with Crowton and helped him move on from Snow to Colorado State through Charley Armey, the offensive coordinator for CSU. At CSU he stood 6-0, weighed 183 pounds and was still wearing jersey number 14 like he did at Orem High.
"I couldn't believe no one would give him (Crowton) a solid scholarship," said Molen. "Gary could make reads and do things that were unbelievable. Knowledge-wise, he was light years ahead of everybody. People weren't into the passing game back then."
As a prepster, Crowton would come to Molen's home every Wednesday evening to watch game films. Molen said Crowton's presence was like having an assistant coach.
"He (Crowton) convinced me that we needed to open up more with our offense," said Molen who served as Orem High's football coach for 10 years and is now the offensive coordinator at Cottonwood High in Salt Lake City. "I gave him (Crowton) liberties to make decisions on the field because he was such a student of the game."
When Crowton returned from serving a Church mission to South Korea, Molen recalls his former quarterback had lost a lot of hair and had a burning desire to get into coaching. At that time Molen was BYU's junior varsity coach and Crowton joined the Cougars as a graduate assistant in the Spring of 1983.
Joining Crowton as graduate assistants at BYU with Molen at that time were Andy Reid (now head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles) and Charlie Stubbs (former quarterback coach at Alabama).
Crowton moved on before the '83 season as Molen helped arrange for him to secure his first full-time coaching job at Snow College. Molen then moved to Bingham High where he coached Mike Borich (now a BYU assistant). Molen helped convince Crowton to bring Borich to Snow and Borich followed Crowton to Western Illinois University to be a part of that staff (see complete Crowton bio on page 22-24).
Molen tapped connections again for Crowton when he contacted Mike Holmgren (former BYU quarterback coach). Holmgren, now with the Seattle Seahawks, was with the San Francisco 49ers. Molen reminded Holmgren of their former grad assistant named Crowton and asked him to recommend Crowton to Tom Coughlin. Coughlin was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants who were facing Holmgren.
Coughlin had already interviewed Crowton, but Holmgren's recommendation brought about a second interview and Gary landed a spot on the new Boston College staff.
"He's phenomenal," said Molen of Crowton. "So many people have gone to a quick passing game and the two names that often come up as having done the most with it are Gary Crowton and Dennis Erickson. I've heard Crowton described as one of the best offensive minds in America and one of the most innovative coaches in the NFL."
For Gary Crowton, who wanted to play for the Cougars, then was a graduate assistant briefly on the BYU staff, he has now come full circle in returning to Utah Valley. Crowton's grandfather, Dave, was a coach for BYU football, starting in 1951-54. Gary Crowton was born in 1957 in Orem.