Tyrone Crawford was part of the Dallas Cowboys‘ defense for nearly a decade. The recently retired defensive end may not have been part of a team worthy of the beloved “America’s Team” label, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t try. From 2012-20, Crawford was one of the team’s defensive leaders and a locker room presence whose impact went beyond the field. As such, former teammate DeMarcus Lawrence penned a heartwarming letter to the recently christened retiree.
The Cowboys careers of DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford
According to Pro-Football-Reference, Crawford was selected by Jerry Jones’ team in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Near the end of the Tony Romo era, Crawford hoped to elevate the defense so their star quarterback could lead the team to another stretch of greatness. Injuries and roster concerns prevented this from happening, but the issues don’t lie at Crawford’s feet.
Crawford spent his rookie season coming off the bench. But after 20 combined tackles, the team promoted him to the starting role, which he kept through 2018. After injuries and age caught up to him these last two years, Crawford’s impact dropped. Despite this, the leadership he displayed will live on through his teammates, like Lawrence.
Pro-Football-Reference notes how Lawrence came into the NFL just two years after Crawford. Lawrence spent much of his first year on the bench and save for another bench campaign in 2016. He stayed next to Lawrence on the starting line until the latter was relegated to the bench. However, Crawford helped establish the duo as one of the most fearsome in the NFL.
Crawford is a two-time Pro Bowler and already has 300 career tackles. While his teammate may not have these numbers or accolades, he welcomed Lawrence into the NFL with kindness and leadership that still resonates today.
Exit, stage left
Not long after the Cowboys’ season ended, Mike McCarthy confirmed rumors floating around in NFL circles. According to the first-year coach, Lawrence approached him with a message. “Tyrone, he came to me right away in the exit interview process … he is going to retire,” McCarthy said.
The Cowboys are no strangers to losing veteran players. From L.P. Ladouceur to Chris Jones, the team’s veteran leaders have left in droves. Few had the rapport that Crawford had, however. He wasn’t just a defender, a leader, and a vital piece to recent success. He was the heart and soul of a group that looked up to him for nearly a decade.
Lawrence wants to ensure that this did not unnoticed. He recently penned a thank you note to a man who helped him reach the heights he’s at today.
DeMarcus Lawrence pays tribute
Lawrence took to The Players’ Tribune to thank his former teammate and recall the impact that Crawford had not only on him but the rest of the defense, the offense, and the people in charge. He harkened back to one of their first discussions, noting the humility Crawford showed a young rookie like him.
“You stopped to talk to me, to get to know me a little bit. You were genuine and kind. You’d just met me, but you already cared about me. You valued me as a person. When we got to talking, you even went so far as to ask me for some tips, to pick my brain about getting to the quarterback,” the two-time Pro Bowler wrote.
Looking back at his NFL journey, Lawrence wasn’t sure he was ready for the big leagues, and he credits Crawford for getting him out of that funk. It wasn’t just the leadership and advice, but the way he practiced what he preached and never wavered, whether healthy or injured, benched or starting.
“I’ve never really told you this before, but, Tyrone, thanks to your advice and guidance … you helped me not jump off the proverbial bridge that most NFL players fall off when they don’t take their profession seriously. You saved me. With your support and constant encouragement, you got me back on track,” he wrote.
Now a veteran leader himself, Lawrence can become that which he admired in Crawford. The kind leader, willing teammate, and most of all, a friendship that the Cowboys favorite showed helped anchor in the young core that so many still believe despite the team’s most recent setbacks. In the end, Crawford will be hard to replace, but if Lawrence can show a fraction of his leadership, the team remains in good hands.