“They are where I was 35 years ago, so I see a little bit of me in every one of these kids — whether it’s Perkins or St. Mary’s or Norwalk or EHOVE. I never turn down an opportunity to speak to any school in the area, just because I feel such a strong connection to this part of the world and I think I kinda understand what it’s like to grow up here — some of the struggles, some of the luxuries we’re afforded,” the Perkins graduate said.
“Home is home and there’s something special about it. I think I connect on a lot of levels with these kids and to the schools around here. I think I get them.”
Crawford, of Chagrin Falls, and Lavin Schwan, of Clyde, were the keynote speakers Friday morning for the kickoff event for Drug Free Leaders. It is an optional leadership program at EHOVE Career Center that includes drug screening and is offered to all students.
“The struggles here are pretty similar to the struggles in most communities. There are a lot of influences that are pulling you in both directions — good or bad,” Crawford said before the event started.
“(Teenagers) may not be even aware that these forces are working against each other,” he added. “You have alcohol, you have drugs; you have different things that can lead you down the wrong (path). But I believe that the crossroads in life for most people happen when you’re an early teenager.”
In those circumstances, Crawford said it’s a situation of deciding to “take the good road or the bad road.”
“It’s not always that black and white. Sometimes kids try to travel in the middle and they can pull that off.”
Schwan’s son, Joseph L. Silcox, died Nov. 12, 2016 at age 25 of a heroin-fentanyl overdose in his apartment. She said her son at one point “was snorting cocaine” in the bathroom of the family business, Bone Boys BBQ in Bellevue, and two employees witnessed “Joey rummaging through the tip envelopes” for money.
After hearing Schwan speak, Crawford said he largely dismissed most of his speech, which was titled “You can get there from here.” He told the EHOVE students that Silcox’s story should be “a cautionary tale,” but one that should be carried with them, so that “Joey’s life was not without purpose.”
Crawford, before the event, shared the benefits of living in this area.
“I keep my boat in Sandusky and I spend every weekend here. I love being here — and why wouldn’t anyone? You have Cedar Point, you have Lake Erie, you have Kelleys Island and Put-In-Bay, Catawba Island and all the wonderful things from an entertainment standpoint that his area offers. So like most communities, we have a lot of good and we have a lot of bad,” the Chagrin Falls resident said.
“I think it’s up to those who have experienced it — and know the difference between the good and bad — to share their message however they can with kids (who) are coming up to that crossroad and figure out which way they want to go.”
Reaching his ‘there’
Crawford spent 16 years working for ESPN. He shared what led him to wanting to be a sports broadcaster.
“Honestly, I was going to be a professional baseball player, so I never really thought about any of that,” said Crawford, referring to his career. “When I went to Bowling Green, I had to pick a major and I have always loved talking about sports. So literally I thought, ‘That would be a cool job.’”
But broadcasting was an admitted “secondary plan” after hopefully a career in professional baseball.
Crawford doesn’t take it for granted when he provides play-by-play for the Cleveland Browns preseason games.
“Absolutely not,” he said before his keynote speech. “I pinch myself every time I walk into that pressbox; I literally do. … It’s an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I have had such a great career. … I’ve gotten to do all the things I’ve ever wanted to — many things I’ve never dreamt of. I’ve covered 15 Super Bowls, I’ve been to World Series, NBA championships, (the) Olympics, Final Fours, NCAA football championships. All that pales in comparison to covering the Browns preseason games because that’s what’s important to me.
“I love sports; I love talking about sports,” Crawford said. “You’re absolutely right; it’s a universal language. You can go to a game — and I will on Sunday — and I’ll be sitting around perfectly complete strangers, but by halftime we will be friends because we share that common interest. We love the same game and we happen to love the same team, so that puts us in a very small subset.
“If the whole world can get along like sports fans, it would be a good place,” he added.
Power of hard work
“If we have 901 different kids, there will be 901 different destinations — wherever their end of the rainbow is. My message is I got there,” Crawford said. “I’m a kid from Northeast Ohio (who) had brig dreams and I was absolutely refusing to let anybody stop me.”
During his speech, the Perkins grad said “I am living my dream every single day” and what he’s taken on his journey is hard work, which is always rewarding.
Crawford said he believes students will find their “there” at different parts of their lives.
“You can get there from here because I did and I had no business getting there,” he added.
“There are people with way more talent than me, but I had a steadfast goal. I worked relentlessly to get there and that’s something else I want all these kids to know. If you’re from this part of the world, you know how to work and you’re not afraid of it.
“And that’s good thing because you’re going to need it. So that’s the best tool in their tool box, their work ethic.”