Ryan Crawford started off in high school at Griffin as a defensive back.
A knee injury will slow a body down, and it did that to Crawford, who then moved to tight end and finally center and guard.
“When you’re not very good, they put you where they want to put you,” Crawford said with a chuckle. “I think I’ve always been cerebral in football. It’s always something I wanted to do, am passionate about. I understand the game. Even at a young age. I think it helped me a lot to even get on the field.
“I was an average football player that loved the game and love the strategic part about it.”
He carried that approach to Northside as an assistant and then as the defensive coordinator the past four at Houston County. Now, he gets to put that and his college degrees to work in a job with a fuller plate as Houston County’s football head coach and athletics director.
Crawford was approved at a called meeting Tuesday morning of the Houston County School Board, which for the second time this year promoted from within.
Kevin Smith, who spent nearly two decades at Northside before going to Houston County for three seasons, was named as Perry’s new head coach and athletics director in January.
Crawford takes over for his former boss, Von Lassiter, who was hired earlier this month at Bleckley County, his alma mater. Crawford, 36, becomes Houston County’s fifth head coach since 2006 and the sixth in program history.
The Bears have been on a roll, going 45-9 the past four seasons, mostly riding an offensive wave led by quarterback Jake Fromm and a selection of wideouts and running backs working with an undersized but blue-collar offensive line.
Crawford has been the Bears’ defensive coordinator, leading a unit overlooked by the offense. But in the past four years, Houston County has held 23 opponents to 21 points or fewer.
The Bears were in transition on defense in 2016, having had to replace most of their starters from 2015’s 11-2 team that held four teams to single digits and doing so while moving up into the extraordinarily tough GHSA Region 1-6A.
So regardless of who was head coach, 2017 was going to be one of a little more transition than normal for the Bears.
“Every year’s transition,” Crawford said. “Every team’s different. Transition, the chemistry of your team is always changing. We’re just going to figure out the best chemistry for us.
“Yeah, there’s gonna be a lot of questions everybody’s going to want to see and talk about. But to me, that’s not any different than any normal year.”
Crawford’s wife Angela is Houston County’s longtime softball head coach, and they’re parents to Cole (8), Brock (5) and Jackson (4). Crawford graduated from Valdosta State and got his Masters at Troy and specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial.
After two seasons at Tattnall County, he was at Northside for eight, all on defense and the final three as the linebackers coach. Then he was among Lassiter’s first hires at Houston County. In those 14 seasons, the only losing teams Crawford has been a part of were his first two at Tattnall County. Griffin didn’t have a losing season while Crawford was in high school.
Crawford is the latest branch of the Conrad Nix coaching tree at Northside.
“We learned — and I saw ‘we’ because there’s seven or eight guys that I believe are head coaches that at one point worked for Coach Nix — a lot of the core values from him that we instill in our programs,” Crawford said. “Our personalities are different, all of us, but I feel like … we’ve learned in our time being with him.
“It’s amazing to see how he works. He teaches you how to do things to build a program, a football program and an athletic program. It’s not a coincidence that all of us have moved on and had chances o be head coaches, because Coach Nix is instrumental in helping all of us.”