Some of Anthony Crissinger-Hill's friends thought the Jefferson graduate was crazy when he spurned offers from Division I-A programs to sign with fledgling Florida Atlantic in 2001.
But Crissinger-Hill looked at things from a different angle.
He didn't just want to play college football. He wanted to play immediately.
"I knew if I went to those schools I wouldn't play until I was a junior," Crissinger-Hill said. "At FAU, I had the opportunity to do it as a freshman."
It looks like he made the right call. Crissinger-Hill did earn early playing time and today the redshirt junior - his second season was derailed by a training camp injury - leads the unbeaten Owls in receiving.
"He has been a very important part of the offense," FAU offensive coordinator Larry Seiple said.
At Jefferson, Crissinger-Hill had 45 catches for 858 yards as a senior and was known for his big-play capabilities. At FAU, he's doing more of the same.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound tight end has 26 catches for 384 yards and three touchdowns this season, pushing his career total to 116 receptions.
In a season-opening upset at Hawaii, a game he calls the most memorable of his college career, he caught 15 passes for 183 yards, both career bests.
"He's a pretty smart kid," Seiple said. "He reads coverages and gets to the place he needs to be."
Crissinger-Hill is tough to defend. He's not what you would call a stay-at-home tight end. Most of the time he runs pass patterns, and because of his speed and athleticism, he creates numerous matchup problems for opponents. He also is considered an above-average blocker, which helps give FAU a more balanced attack.
"I play hard," Crissinger-Hill said. "And I'm physical. That's how I get open."
Crissinger-Hill has made considerable strides since arriving on FAU's doorstep. He said his 40-yard dash and strength have dramatically improved. And the offense, once difficult to comprehend, has become second nature.
"I've really worked closely with my coaches," Crissinger-Hill said. "I owe it all to them. I've learned so much technique."
Crissinger-Hill, like many, hopes to someday play on a larger stage. Seiple, once an assistant for the Tampa Bay Bucs, thinks the player can get there if he continues to improve.
"He has a good chance of playing (in the NFL)," Seiple said. "It all depends on how hard he works and how much weight he gains. He just needs to get stronger."
Keith Niebuhr can be reached at 226-3350 or e-mail email@example.com