Full speed ahead for Warren's Crump

A television reporter wanted to interview Warren running back Darrius Crump after he rolled up 243 yards and a touchdown in a 17-14 win over Lyons in the season opener back in August.

Crump wasn't sure at first, and pulled the reporter aside before they went on camera.

"He told the reporter, 'I stutter,'" said TaKisha Crump, Darrius' mom. "I thought it was very brave of him to do that.

"I was worried (about the interview), but Darrius didn't shy away. He did really well. He answered real clearly."

It usually depends on the day for Crump, or the circumstance, or maybe even the other person involved in the conversation. Sometimes, he really struggles with his speech, perhaps because he's nervous or rushed. Other times, he can be smooth and easy to understand, like when he's having fun with his teammates in the huddle during a game.

But no matter what kind of day he's having, Crump works about as hard at correcting his speech impediment as he does at improving at football. And that's pretty darn hard.

Short and speedy, the 5-foot-8 Crump, a junior, is one of the top running backs in Lake County this season. In six games, he's already rolled up 1,139 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns on 146 carries. That's a hefty 7.8 yards per carry and nearly 190 yards per game.

Crump, who frequently credits his offensive linemen for his success, is coming off yet another big game. While playing with a broken hand, he rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown last week in a win over Lake Forest.

"When I get my homework done, I'm doing pushups and ab workouts every night. I do stretching in the morning," said Crump, who also fits in daily speech therapy sessions. "I do things like go to the track and run with a parachute. I run up and down the bleachers. I go out and try to train myself as much as I can. I watch YouTube videos of good running backs.

"I would love to play in college, that's my first goal. My second goal is to go to the NFL. It would be a blessing. I've been thinking about that since I started playing football when I was 7 years old."

A couple years after starting football, when Crump was in fourth grade, his difficulties with his speech escalated. His mother was afraid of how the other kids at school would treat Crump as he struggled more each day with his stuttering.

"Kids can be very mean and cruel," TaKisha Crump said.

By middle school, Crump saw that firsthand. Kids laughed at him, they imitated him. They made nasty comments.

"I was scared, and nervous to talk around people," Crump said. "It was tough because I cared a lot about if people were making fun of me. I'm a (sensitive) kid.

"Back then, I didn't think about it the way I do now."

Crump says that by being focused on positive and productive activities, such as football, he has learned to ignore negativity and mean people. Part of the reason he agreed to publicly share his story is that he wants to let other kids who are shouldering their own struggles know that they can do the same thing.

"I want everyone to know that there's nothing wrong with being different because we're all different," Crump said. "There's nothing wrong with stuttering.

"Kids who make fun of you for something are just trying to make themselves feel better, and that's negative. I'm all about being positive and making myself better. Kids need to know that you shouldn't let something you struggle with, like stuttering, stop you from being successful in life."

Success in football has come to Crump not in spite of his size, but perhaps because of it. He is a pro at eluding defenders by getting lost in the crowd.

"People aren't able to see me sometimes on the field," Crump said with a laugh. "And I'm fast and shifty, so once I see open field, I'm off to the races."

After Crump gained 222 yards on 21 carries and scored 2 touchdowns in a 43-26 win over previously undefeated Libertyville in Week 4, the frustrated opposition could do nothing but tip its hat.

"It was very hard to stop him," Libertyville defensive end Ben Kimpler said of Crump. "He used his size to his advantage. We all had to get very low on him and he's a very strong, physical runner who likes to run north-south. He is so explosive, he hits the hole hard. He sticks his head down, so it's hard to get a full wrap around him."

Crump has been a force since his freshman year, when he was a student at Carmel. He started on the sophomore football team there and eventually was moved up to varsity. As a sophomore, he started in the varsity backfield from Day One and was a key contributor for the Corsairs.

But Carmel couldn't offer Crump the speech programs he needed, and with no daily reinforcement, his speech began to slip again. So Crump, who lives in Gurnee, transferred to Warren prior to the start of this school year.

There are special speech programs at Warren.

"I was nervous, because Warren is such a big school and there are so many good athletes here," Crump said. "I wasn't sure what kind of playing time I would get."

Crump also wasn't sure what kind of reception he would get from the other kids about his speech. He's been pleasantly surprised.

"High school kids are more mature. Middle school was a lot tougher with all the negativity," Crump said. "I think I've also gotten more confident. In sports, there's a lot of talking. I try to be a leader on the field. I try to be a great teammate, and I think that's actually helped me with my speech."

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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