Nolan Crowdus loves Chickasha. He loves the people. He loves the atmosphere. He loves his job. But he’s here despite an experience some years back that could have (understandably) kept him out of the state of Oklahoma for good.
Crowdus is a 26-year-old assistant coach for the Chickasha High School varsity and freshman football teams. He hails from Arlington, Texas, where he played football, baseball and ran track in high school.
When he graduated from high school, Crowdus attended East Central University in Ada, Okla., playing football and baseball. During his first year at ECU, a tragic incident changed everything.
On the night of Sept. 19, 2004, Crowdus’s roommate Joseph Tusan was killed in a hit-and-run incident stemming from a racially-motivated conflict.
According to reports, Crowdus, Tusan and some friends and teammates were attending a party at the South Canadian River, and Ammon R was already there when they arrived. Words were exchanged, and Crowdus said the family singled the group out when they arrived, using racial slurs to insult he and his friends. Words turned into a physical confrontation, and eventually gunshots were fired into the air by Reich.
Crowdus and his friends left the scene in a pickup truck, with seven of them riding in the bed. Reich pursued, hit the vehicle several times, and caused the driver to lose control, which sent the pickup flipping over the side of the road.
Tusan was killed, and teammate Dennis Scales was paralyzed from the neck down. Reich was convicted of one count of second-degree murder and 32 counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and in 2005 was sentenced to life in prison.
Crowdus was also injured, ending his football season and preventing him from playing baseball as well as he wanted. That, combined with the trauma of the situation, affected him on and off the field.
“If that happens to an 18-year-old kid out of high school…grown men can’t handle that sometimes,” Crowdus said. “I guess my head wasn’t in it. At the same time, I was injured and couldn’t play football.”
He left ECU after his sophomore year and went back to Texas, where he worked a number of different jobs. Crowdus also got into his career while in Texas, working as a teacher’s assistant in the Fort Worth school district in the special education department.
In order to further his career, however, Crowdus knew he would need to finish his college education.
“I could work in Texas, and I had jobs,” Crowdus said. “But that’s all those were: jobs. They weren’t careers. I wanted a career. So I decided to go back to college.”
Crowdus had connections from his college days in Oklahoma, and he had stayed in touch with them during his few years back in Texas. One of his former teammates had transferred from ECU to USAO, and put him in touch with Drovers’ head baseball coach Mike Ross.
“I called Mike Ross, set up a tryout, and they gave me a full ride,” Crowdus said.
In his return to Oklahoma, Crowdus found Chickasha to be a much different experience than the one he had in Ada.
“I didn’t like Oklahoma for a while, but at the same time, one experience isn’t going to represent a whole state,” Crowdus said. “Chickasha changed my whole view of Oklahoma.”
After playing two years of baseball at USAO, Crowdus earned his bachelor’s degree. He was then faced with a decision about where to go next. He had connections in the education system in Texas, but chose to stay in Chickasha and go to work for the high school.
“I was here, and I have a house here,” Crowdus said. “Chickasha is a small place. If you’re a coach in Texas, you’re just a number. There are 12 high schools in Arlington, and each one has thousands of kids. Here, if you walk around anywhere, it’s like ‘Hey, coach! How are you doing?’ There’s a lot more community support.”
As a coach for the Chickasha football team, Crowdus has brought a fire and a passion to the team with his vocal and outgoing personality. He keeps the same intensity whether it is a practice day or a game day.
“I have a lot of passion,” Crowdus said. “I don’t want to come out five days a week, and everybody busts their butts, and then when it’s game time just give it all up. If you’re going to practice and make it work, then let’s make it work Thursday night, let’s make it work Friday night.”
Not far removed from his playing career, Crowdus said he uses those recent experiences to fuel him as a coach.
“I know I’m on the coaching side of the ball,” he said. “But at the same time, I still have a lot of player in me. I think everybody should still have a little bit of player in them. It keeps that intensity, that vibe up.”
Crowdus also brings a fresh perspective to the table. What he knows first-hand about Chickasha football is mostly limited to what he’s seen this season, so past shortcomings of the team don’t matter as much.
“I wasn’t here the last couple of years, when they didn’t reach expectations of where they wanted to go,” Crowdus said. “I wasn't here back when they were doing really well. This is what I have in front of me. I know how good they can be.”
Crowdus will also be coaching track and field for Chickasha in the spring, and because of his experience, may help out the baseball team if he is needed.
Currently working in the special education department, he’s working on getting certified as a teacher in order to further his career. The same reasons that motivate him to be a teacher apply to his job as a coach. He looks out for the best interests of the kids, and said he strives to be a role model for them.
“I see these guys in the school, I talk to them in the hallways,” Crowdus said. “I know what they’re doing. I listen to some of the same music they listen to, so they don’t look at me like an outsider. They see that I understand.
“They don’t look at me like someone who’s talking down on them, it’s coming from someone who has done it before, knows what he’s doing, and just wants to spread some knowledge and help them succeed. Succeed in life, succeed on the field, and succeed in the classroom.”