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'Not just about money'

Ex-Heisman winner Crouch aiming for a CFL title

Posted: Tuesday May 1, 2007 8:16PM; Updated: Tuesday May 1, 2007 8:16PM
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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Six years removed from winning the Heisman Trophy, Eric Crouch says his best football is still ahead of him.

The former Nebraska quarterback is entering his second season in the Canadian Football League, and he said he's found contentment north of the border. He said he'll leave for Toronto next week and report early for the Argonauts' training camp.

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"I'm trying to win that starting spot," Crouch said Tuesday. "I'm not there to sit on the bench and hope we win. I would like to be the quarterback that helps win games and helps win a Grey Cup this year. It's a long time coming for me. To me, it's all about being the best and to be able to win a championship in the CFL."

Crouch appeared in three games before a shoulder injury ended his season. Now 100 percent, Crouch is among five quarterbacks on the preseason roster.

Toronto offensive coordinator Steve Buratto said incumbent Damon Allen will go into camp No. 1 but must prove he can play at 43 years old.

Crouch is penciled in second, ahead of offseason acquisitions Mike McMahon and Tom Arth. Michael Bishop also is on the roster, but he is playing in the Arena Football League this spring, and his status with the Argonauts is uncertain.

Buratto said he plans to give the 28-year-old Crouch every opportunity to win the job.

"The things we like to do most are the things that require an athletic kind of quarterback," Buratto said. "He fits that mold."

Buratto said his offensive system requires that the quarterback be a threat to run at any time.

Though the system also requires lots of passing, it features many of the tenets of the triple-option offense Crouch ran at Nebraska under Frank Solich.

"His background isn't in dropping straight back and throwing," Buratto said. "When we're at our best, our quarterback isn't always dropping straight back and throwing. We want him to make defenses worry about him."

Crouch was a 2002 third-round NFL draft choice of the St. Louis Rams, who projected him as a receiver. He walked out of training camp and announced his retirement after not being given a chance at quarterback.

He later had a couple of trials with the Green Bay Packers, once as a quarterback and then as a safety, but he was released before training camp in 2004.

Crouch signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2005 and was sent to NFL Europe, where he played safety for Cologne. He was released after the NFL Europe season.

Crouch said his enthusiasm for football has been renewed in Toronto, especially with the arrival of Buratto from Calgary.

"This is what I was made to do," Crouch said. "I've got to at least do this until my body tells me I can't or a team tells me I can't, right? I feel I have some security. I feel like the team and owner and coaches enjoy having me there. It almost makes me feel like I'm back at Nebraska, as far as feeling wanted and appreciated."

As for the NFL, those hopes are all but gone.

"That doesn't bother me at all," he said. "I would prefer to have a career in Toronto and the CFL and play a five- or 10-year career. It's not just about money to me. It's about being around people I enjoy playing with. This doesn't last forever, so I'm grasping the bull by the horns."

Crouch's sense of purpose is apparent to Buratto.

"There isn't a guy with a more intense attitude about making the football team," he said. "He's done the things between the end of the season last year and the start of this year to give himself an opportunity to be successful."

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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