Randin Crecelius was never a player who garnered a lot of headlines.
Crecelius earned All-Wesco honors during his time at Cascade High School, but wasn’t the subject of any flashy feature stories. He earned a scholarship to play at Portland State University, but was never the most honored member of his own program’s offensive line, let alone the entire team.
Yet Crecelius is proving one needn’t be the highest-profile player to reach football’s highest level.
Crecelius has spent the fall in the NFL as a member of the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad, which means he’s just a short step away from making his NFL dream a reality.
“I think about that every day,” Crecelius said when reached by phone from Baltimore last week. “It’s just insane. I was talking with one of the guys on the team bout how it’s so crazy to say that I’m in the NFL. It’s always been a dream of mine, ever since I was 5 years old playing flag football. It’s still a little hard to act like it’s real that I’m in the NFL. It’s just an overwhelming experience and it’s been awesome.”
Crecelius, who graduated from Cascade in 2014, went unselected in the NFL Draft following a four-year career at Portland State, where he earned third-team All-Big Sky honors in 2016 and honorable mention All-Big Sky honors in 2017 while playing left tackle for the Vikings. However, the 6-foot-5, 300-pounder signed with Baltimore as an undrafted free agent shortly after the draft, then survived all of the offseason, training camp and preseason. He was one of Baltimore’s cuts as the team formed its initial 53-man roster, but he was signed to the Ravens’ practice squad as soon as he was eligible, and he’s been there ever since.
“It’s awesome to see him there,” said Cascade coach Jordan Sieh, who was a Bruins assistant during all four of Crecelius’ years at Cascade. “It seems like just yesterday that he was here, and it’s so hard to get to that level.
“He definitely physically stood out from the time he was a freshman,” added, Sieh, who mentioned Crecelius as one of the players who helped the Bruins return to prominence following back-to-back winless seasons his freshman and sophomore years. “He had the size and the weight, but also the athleticism. He was a very physical kid, a tough kid on the field, and he played extremely hard. But he was also a very smart player who was a great teammate and a great leader. He was a rare guy in that he had the tough attitude, but also had the leadership and smarts to go along with it.”
Crecelius had his eyes on a possible shot at the NFL heading into his senior season at Portland State. However, his senior season was cut short by injuries to his shoulder and tibia.
But Crecelius didn’t give up. He began rehabbing as soon as possible following shoulder surgery and continued to prep for the draft.
“A few days before the draft I got a call from one of the coaches here going over some basic stuff,” Crecelius said. “Draft day came and I was waiting until the third day — I wasn’t expecting to get drafted because of the injury. I waited until the last pick, and then 10 minutes after the last pick the Ravens called and wanted to give me an opportunity. After the call I didn’t stop smiling for two hours.”
Now, nearly six months later and after overcoming the initial jitters of competing against NFL players, Crecelius is living the practice squad life.
Being on an NFL practice squad is different from being on the 53-man roster. Each team is allowed up to 10 players on its practice squad. Those players can fully participate in all practices, but are ineligible to play in games. Crecelius is one of three offensive linemen currently on Baltimore’s practice squad, and he’s the only rookie among the three.
Being on the practice squad can be a stressful existence. Teams are constantly churning over their practice squads, meaning players are always day-to-day. Practice squad players also get paid by the week, so a player has to survive another week to get another check. Crecelius is making the league minimum per week for a practice-squad player at $7,600.
“The coaches say every day that people are one snap away from getting bumped or being active,” Crecelius said about how he’s dealing with the transitory nature of being on the practice squad. “What you can control is making sure you know the playbook, that you don’t take any reps off in practice. You’re still competing for a job, you’re always competing every day. Every day I’m working just as hard as I did when I was trying to make the team from the beginning.”
Meanwhile, Crecelius is using the opportunity to soak up everything he can, learning from Baltimore’s veteran linemen like six-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda. He’s played primarily left guard and left tackle during his time with the Ravens, though he’s willing to play on the right side of the line as well. During practices he goes through all the drills with the offensive line, then plays on the scout team, meaning he gets plenty of reps against Baltimore’s first-team defense.
And he’s hoping one day he’ll get the call-up to the 53-man roster.
“You’re still trying to catch the eye of everyone, you’ve got to make yourself known,” Crecelius said. “So I’m still competing and giving 100 percent and working toward the goal of being on the team. If it comes next week or next year, I’m always going to give 100 percent every time.”