As a college quarterback, Eric Crouch seemed unstoppable.
He broke NCAA records on a regular basis, had the Nebraska Cornhuskers in contention for a national championship almost every year he started, and even won the Heisman trophy his final season in 2001.
With all of this success at the college level, many assumed that Crouch would go on to be a star at the pro level as well.
However, Crouch’s career in the NFL turned out to be very short-lived.
We’ll take a look at what happened to Eric Crouch’s NFL career, why his incredible feats at the college level never translated to the pros, and what the former Heisman winner is up to now.
Early Life and High School Achievements
Born and raised in Nebraska, Eric Crouch attended Millard North High where he ran track and played quarterback for the football team.
During Crouch’s senior season, though, he only attempted a total of 45 passes.
This low number of pass attempts is largely due to the run-heavy, wingbone offense that Millard High employed.
And to his credit, Crouch was able to execute this offense to near perfection, leading the Millard Mustangs all the way to the state semifinals.
His performance as a high school quarterback was impressive enough to earn Crouch the honor of being a Parade All-American selection and a two-time All-State selection in Nebraska.
After completing his senior season, Crouch decided to stay in his home state and accept a scholarship to play quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Nov. 16, 1978: Eric Crouch, Heisman Trophy winner and No. 30 on The Nebraska 100, is born.
At @MillardNorthHS, Crouch started a game with a broken rib. He is the career total offense leader for the #Huskers and is now an assistant coach for @MidlandU_FB. https://t.co/QIY9hNMusk pic.twitter.com/o2MhCEceMM
— The Nebraska 100 (@TheNebraska100) November 16, 2018
A Stellar College Career
Entering into his freshman season at Nebraska, Eric Crouch had the potential to be an immediate impact player.
However, surgery to repair an ankle injury forced Crouch to redshirt during the 1997 season.
His first year on the team, Nebraska would go on to be named co-national champions along with the Michigan Wolverines.
Nebraska’s 1998 season began with Bobby Newcombe as the starting quarterback with Crouch listed as the backup.
After Newcombe suffered a knee injury in the very first game of the season, though, Crouch was handed the keys to the offense.
Crouch put up good numbers in his first start at the collegiate level, rushing for two touchdowns and completing 11 of 17 passes against UAB.
However, the quarterback position at Nebraska during the 1998 season turned out to be a bit of a revolving door.
Crouch would go on to start one more game before being replaced again by Bobby Newcombe.
Five games later, Newcombe suffered another injury and was then replaced by senior walk-on Monte Cristo for half a game.
After a poor performance by Cristo, Crouch took over the starting position once again.
He remained the starter for the rest of the 1998 season and helped lead Nebraska to a 9-4 overall record.
Heading into the 1999 season, it was rumored that Eric Crouch might leave the team.
Bobby Newcombe was named as the starting quarterback, and many felt that Crouch might transfer to a school where he would receive more significant playing time.
In Nebraska’s first two games of the season, though, Crouch was given a lot of minutes at quarterback.
By the third game, Crouch was named as the new starting quarterback and Newcombe was moved to the wingback position.
Nebraska went on to win the Big 12 championship this year and finish with a record of 12-1 after defeating Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl.
This record was enough to earn the Cornhuskers a number 3 ranking in the final 1999 AP poll.
Now entrenched as the starter, Crouch helped Nebraska accomplish another spectacular season in 2000.
The Cornhuskers ultimately posted a 12-2 record at the end of Crouch’s senior season, with their only losses coming to the Kansas State Wildcats and the eventual national championship-winning Oklahoma Sooners.
In his fifth year as a Cornhusker, Crouch put up his best numbers as a college quarterback and broke numerous school and NCAA records along the way.
In the very first game of the season, Crouch was able to pass Tommie Frazier as Nebraska’s all-time leader in total yardage.
Later in the season, Crouch became the all-time Big 12 career rushing quarterback and also went on to break the NCAA record for most touchdowns scored by a quarterback.
Throughout the 2001 season, Crouch was considered to be the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.
But after his 11-0 Cornhuskers suffered a stunning loss against Colorado and were knocked out of national championship contention, many felt that Crouch’s chances of taking home the award had diminished.
In the end, though, his record-breaking stats were enough to overcome the fact that he wasn’t able to lead his team to a championship, and Crouch was announced as the winner of the 2001 Heisman trophy.
Crouch was also given the Davey O’Brien Award for best quarterback in the country.
Thanks to a number of upsets, Nebraska was actually given a chance to play for a national championship in Crouch’s final game as a Cornhusker.
Their opponent in this game was the top-ranked Miami Hurricanes.
Although Crouch was able to rush for 114 yards in this matchup, the Miami defense was able to keep Crouch from reaching the endzone for the first time since the 1999 season.
The Hurricanes would go on to win the game 37-14 and leave Crouch with an overall record of 35-7.
— Land of 10 Nebraska (@Landof10Huskers) June 1, 2017
Eric Crouch’s Professional Career
As the Heisman Trophy winner and the new owner of numerous NCAA records, there was plenty of hype surrounding Eric Crouch when he finished his college career and declared for the NFL draft.
Pro scouts, however, weren’t so sold on Crouch’s ability to play quarterback at the next level.
The run-heavy, option offense that he ran at both his high school and college teams didn’t exactly fit the mold of an NFL quarterback.
At the time, rushing quarterbacks starting in the NFL was practically unheard of.
Another knock against Crouch was his height.
At six foot exactly, Crouch wasn’t as tall as the prototypical NFL quarterback at the time.
Nevertheless, many NFL teams viewed Crouch’s natural athleticism as a valuable addition, and the St. Louis Rams decided to select him the 95th overall pick.
Their intention was to transition Crouch to the wide receiver position, where they felt that his size, speed, and athleticism would benefit him better at the professional level.
However, Crouch suffered a hard hit during practice that forced him to have 150cc of blood drained from his leg.
Due to this injury, Crouch would never play a single game in the NFL.
In the years that followed, Crouch bounced around from team to team at various professional organizations.
He played quarterback for two years in the CFL for the Toronto Argonauts.
Injuries, however, forced the Argonauts to release Crouch from the team in 2007.
Just weeks after being released by the Argonauts, Crouch was drafted by Team Texas to play quarterback in the upstart All-American Football League.
When the league ended up canceling its inaugural season, though, Crouch was cut from the team.
He was later signed by the Omaha Nighthawks to play in the United Football League but was cut from this team as well after the UFL suspended its operations less than a year after his signing.
Despite having such an illustrious college career, ongoing injury issues and play style that didn’t translate to the professional level at the time kept Crouch from ever enjoying much success following his time at Nebraska.
Nevertheless, the heights that he was able to help the Cornhuskers reach and the records he broke along the way won’t soon be forgotten.
After working for a time as a sales territory manager for a medical device manufacturer and then eventually as a TV studio analyst, Crouch found his calling and started his own playground and recreation equipment company in Omaha, Nebraska.
Speaking with The Hype Magazine about the business, Crouch said:
“A friend of mine at the time, he’s passed away. He was an older gentleman; in his 60’s or 70’s when I bought this business. He basically just told me, “You know what, man, football is not going to lasts forever.” The wheels started to turn, and I got to thinking and I was like, “What are you talking about?” He knew a guy that was selling his business. So, I actually shadowed him for 3-months, and I ended up buying this business… I wouldn’t say out of desperation, but more out of like… security. It was like a switch went off, you know what, football is not going to last forever, maybe I’m not going to be the MVP of the Super Bowl and make millions of dollars and signing autographs for the rest of my life and charging $100 per autograph.”
Crouch went on to say:
“I’m just happy that it worked out the way that it did, and I had the opportunity to get into a business that you have to work hard in every day. I don’t want to say it’s a grind, but when you own your own business you’re always working and it’s a lot like playing football and being a quarterback. I’m the leader of my business. When I step into the huddle, which is when I step into my business every day, people are looking at me to call the play. I enjoy that part because that’s what I enjoyed about football.”