Pat Crosby worked diligently to get back onto the football field last fall at Lafayette College, earning a pair of starts at center in late October.
But his return from offseason shoulder surgery proved to be a major challenge, so after the Leopards’ 39-13 loss to Bucknell on Oct. 29, the former Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High stalwart was shut down for the final three games of a 4-7 season.
“It was disappointing,” said the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Crosby, who was the Dual County League’s Lineman of the Year for his senior season in 2009. “I wanted to contribute and that's why I gave it a try. In that respect, I have no regrets.
“It's been a long wait and a lot of hard work and now I can't wait to get going. My shoulder is healthy.”
The junior will get the start at center in Lafayette’s season-opening game Saturday at William & Mary.
“No doubt he’s a very physical, intense player, and that’s what his position demands,” said Lafayette coach Frank Tavani. “But I’ve also told Pat that since we have just one senior among our offensive starters, I need him to be a leader and I know he has that in him. He would have played a lot more except for the injury but he showed me a lot of desire when he did.”
Crosby has a lot in common with his father, Alan, who as a senior captain playing tight end was the MVP of the Tufts University football team in 1974.
The elder Crosby, who helped pay for his Tufts education by working the overnight shift at a gasoline station, majored in engineering and now specializes in water purification systems. His son chose Lafayette, in Easton, Pa., because of its rich football tradition, including a national championship in 1896, and to pursue an engineering degree.
“I actually thought Alan would someday own a fistful of gas stations because of the way he approached football and his studies,” recalled his coach at Tufts, Rocky Carzo, now retired. “He was a leader and his teammates responded to him.”
Alan Crosby, a multisport athlete at Stoughton High who moved to Sudbury in 1992, said he would go from the gas station to his early classes wearing his Mobil uniform.
“My late father, Benjamin, was an auto mechanic who went to Boston English High School and he worked his tail off to help me go to college, and it's because of his example that Pat and my other children have been able to do the same,” said Crosby, who loved football so much that after college he played and later coached in the rough-and-tumble Boston Park League.
He also coached his son in Pop Warner. By the time Pat was a sophomore in high school, he was 6-1, 245 pounds; he added 2 more inches in height and 35 more pounds by his senior year, and his accolades in high school included being named a Globe All-Scholastic, Massachusetts Super 26 pick and Shriners’ all-star.
“I'm still close to my high school coach, Tom Lopez; we talk all the time. And, of course, my dad has been a great influence,” said Crosby, whose favorite high school football memory was Lincoln-Sudbury's 14-13 overtime win against Acton-Boxborough Regional his sophomore season.
“Pat was recruited pretty heavily, especially by the Patriot League schools,” said Lopez, who will kick off his 35th season as head coach Saturday against Tewksbury. “He worked on his quickness as he got bigger, and he was a vocal and impressive senior captain who worked just as hard in the offseason.”
At Lafayette, Crosby played in one game as a freshman, against Harvard, and received the Leopards’ Offensive Scout Team award.
“Practicing against the defense was a good way to get prepared for the college game and to learn our system,” said Crosby. “I feel there's always something to prove.”
But during spring practice last year, Crosby tumbled to the turf with his arm extended as a teammate landed on him. The injury to his left shoulder required surgery at New England Baptist Hospital. His arm was in a sling for six weeks, and doctors said his recovery could be as long as six months.
“I had to get my strength back but felt I could play last year,” said Crosby. “I have mixed feelings about it. I was happy to help us beat Fordham. That's the feeling I want to carry into this season. It's a new year and a fresh start.”
Crosby is part of an accomplished family, in athletics and beyond.
His sister Sara played on a national championship women's lacrosse team at Northwestern. She teaches at Frederick Douglass Academy in New York City, where she has started a lacrosse program.
His brother, Michael, graduated in the spring from Connecticut College, where he played varsity soccer; and his mother, Virginia, played varsity soccer at Needham High and still competes in an adult league. Another sister, Amy, is a singer.
“I'm as proud as I can be of all of them,” said Alan, whose old football cleats hang in the attic and whose number 89 Tufts jersey is stored away as a treasured memento.
“As for Pat, he's had a taste of adversity but he's loyal and he wants to make a difference. I'm looking forward to Saturday. I hope all his hard work is rewarded.”
Marvin Pave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.