Mike Crawford had a dream to start the first-ever lacrosse club at Hampton University during his senior year, but the college student passed away suddenly before he could see his dream to its end. However, his parents, Verina Mathis-Crawford and Errol Crawford, took up the mantle of lacrosse at the historically black college, and have now made lacrosse a reality at Hampton in honor of their son. From incredible loss and sadness comes growth, and a brand new extended family.
Mike Crawford had a long history with lacrosse. He went to St. Thomas More in CT for prep school, where he played the game, along with football and basketball. He always enjoyed the sport of lacrosse, and the camaraderie and challenges it provided. Mike’s most oft-used motto was “carpe diem“, or “seize the day“, and lacrosse really gave him the opportunity to go out and make those words a reality in his own life. But for Mike it didn’t stop there, and it wasn’t all about him. He was also a member of Big Brothers and Big Sisters in CT and a mentor to younger students throughout his life. Mike was a giver. That was his way to seize the day.
Even though Mike Crawford really loved lacrosse, he chose to attend Hampton University for academic and general University offering reasons. There was no lacrosse team at Hampton when Mike was enrolled, but the chance to get a great education at an historically black college was not something Mike was willing to pass up. While at Hampton, Mike pursued his sports management degree, as well as fraternity life on campus with Iota Phi Theta, with vigor.
But after almost 3 years at Hampton, the lacrosse bug came back in a major way, and it bit Mike all over again. Mike knew that he may never play in an actual game for Hampton, as he was set to graduate that same year (the 2011 academic year), but he wanted to leave a legacy at the school, within the community, and for his fellow students. He wanted to give the gift of lacrosse to Hampton University.
In December of 2010, Mike Crawford was at home in Brooklyn during winter break. Final preparations were being made. Everything seemed to be going as planned, as Mike was set to graduate in May of 2011, and the seeds of starting a lacrosse club at Hampton had been planted. He had been speaking with his mom about some of the challenges in starting the club, but was excited to graduate, and start his post-collegiate life.
Sadly, before Mike could see any of these visions through, he passed away in his family’s home due to an enlarged heart. He would never be able to go back to Hampton to see his dream through.
The Crawford family had no way of seeing this coming. There were no warning signs. Mike had been happy and healthy, just a day before, and his passing was an absolute shock to all who knew him. For his loving parents, it could easily have been far too much. They could have mourned by themselves, and shut the world out, but because Mike had a dream and a passion, and because they are quite simply amazing people, they made a decision to use all of their raging emotions towards something incredibly positive: Verina and Errol Crawford were going to make sure that a lacrosse club got started at Hampton University.
Neither Verina nor Errol knew much about the game of lacrosse, other than the fact that their son loved it so very much. But that was more than enough for them to make it happen. I have been able to speak with Verina on the phone a number of times, and even got the chance to head out to dinner with her and Errol in Brooklyn. Each time we speak I learn a little bit more about them, and about Mike, and by now it takes all the control I possess not to shed a tear when the Crawfords speak of their son. Their love and passion alone almost makes me feel like I knew Mike, and as weird as it may sound, I miss him. He just sounds like that good of a kid.
(See video below of Errol and Verina trying lacrosse for the first time)
Their love for Mike is absolute. Mike’s love of lacrosse was absolute. And now their love for lacrosse is absolute. You can almost miss the passion for lacrosse from Errol, as he is so very quick to deflect credit onto his wife, and even then, Verina is not quick to accept it. She constantly praises the Hampton University administration, and even more often, the Hampton student body as the true drivers of this project, but I’ve done my research, and I know how much work the Crawfords have done. Simply put, lacrosse would NOT exist at Hampton right now in any form without the Crawford family’s involvement. And Verina has truly supplied a super-human effort in making it happen.
Verina started her quest by contacting Lloyd Carter, President of Blax Lax, to get things going. Lloyd is a major player when it comes to development of African-American lacrosse, especially in the Mid-Atlantic area, and is a former Morgan State player. From there they contacted US Lacrosse and other support groups, and even got in touch with the US Coast Guard Academy, which proved to be very helpful and willing to get involved. Eventually, the team was even accepted into the NCLL, and now they are set for their first ever full season of lacrosse!
All of this, from inception to official NCLL status being granted, was accomplished in a little less than a year. It’s pretty unreal, and all because of Mike Crawford’s dream, and his parents’ undying love.
On April 14th, the first-ever Lacrosse Day will be held, and Hampton University will be playing in the event. Lacrosse Day features Hampton University, Howard University, Morgan State, and St. Thomas More HS, and will be held on the campus of Hampton University in Virginia on April 14th, 2012.
The day will kick off with a community service project, and then a mini tournament will take place for three hours, featuring all 4 teams in attendance. After the games have concluded, a recognition reception will be held where the Morgan State Ten Bears team will be honored as African-American pioneers of the game. Dr. Miles Harrison, Kyle Harrison’s father, will be the keynote speaker, which is fitting seeing as he was one of the Ten Bears in the 1970s. All of the teams in attendance will be recognized, and as always, there will be a true feeling of community in the air.
No one can ever replace Mike Crawford and there will always be a hole in the hearts of people who knew him well. But because of Mike’s wonderful parents, the Hampton community has received the gift of lacrosse, and our extended family; the lacrosse family, has gotten a little bigger.
I’d like to personally thank Verina and Errol Crawford for doing so much for others after losing such a wonderful young man, and son, from their lives. The lacrosse community can never bring Mike back, or replace him, but hopefully we can help the Crawfords keep his memory alive and well. A big first step will be Lacrosse Day, and I can’t wait to see Mike dream’s on display.