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RALEIGH, N.C. - When offensive tackle Robert Crisp walked onto an Athens Drive High School practice field for the first time in August, football coach Jeff Smouse almost had to do a double-take.
He knew that Crisp and safety Peter Singer were transferring into the program. But Smouse, a 38-year coaching veteran, admits he does not following recruiting on the Internet.
He had no clue that Crisp was among the most highly touted prospects in the state of North Carolina. All he knew was that Crisp was supposedly 6 feet 8 and 300 pounds, and Smouse had his doubts about that.
"He's every bit what they say," Smouse said. "A lot of times they say he's 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, and you look at them and he's 6-foot-4. I've been around a long time, and I've seen bigger kids, but he's the biggest kid I've seen that I've coached by far."
For his part, Crisp never imagined he would be in the position he was Friday, when he was officially invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"Basketball was my dream growing up," Crisp said. "I never thought I'd be in this position that I am now in football, [and I'm] thankful for it. It's funny because I was actually about to quit football my freshman year. Now I am in this position. I just think how things change.
"I went to the Reebok camp at NC State after my sophomore year. From then on ... [I thought] football might be the sport for me. It might get me into college, working hard from then on."
Crisp accepted his invitation to the Jan. 9 game at the Alamodome in San Antonio with great pride.
"It means, as they say, I am one of the best in the country, so I have to accept that with a privilege as people recognizing me being one of the top elite players in the country," Crisp said.
Smouse cracks that Crisp would not be going to San Antonio if it weren't for Smouse's coaching during the past three months.
"He's just a great kid, great talent, phenomenal size, that's God-given there, but he's just like a coach on the field," Smouse said. "He helps out the other kids, and he's just a great kid to be around. That's the fun part. Him being a great player is just like a bonus.
"A lot of big kids are stiff, but he's athletic because he was a basketball player before he was a football player. He's got a lot of athletic skill. He's refined his technique, and he's gone to camp. He's been well-coached. You see a 6-foot-2 kid weigh 225 out there, and he moves like Crisp, except Crisp is 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds."
Crisp will continue to play basketball for one more year, and then he will likely hang up his sneakers for cleats full-time. He verbally committed to NC State last spring, and he remains a solid pledge for the Wolfpack. He was recruited to NC State by running backs coach Jason Swepson, and Crisp said he has developed a strong relationship with the Pack.
"It's going great," Crisp said. "I talk to Coach [Swepson on Thursday] night. The guys are working hard with a lot of injuries, and the secondary being young, things aren't going to the best they should be. But it's still a great group of guys and great coaches over there, and I can't wait to get there."