The Omaha Nighthawks are giving Eric Crouch another shot at professional football.
The United Football League team held a news conference Tuesday to announce it has signed the 2001 Heisman Trophy winner who once starred down the road at Nebraska.
The 32-year-old Crouch said he’s looking forward to getting one more chance to play football in his hometown but added that he’s not out to prove himself.
”This is an exciting time for me to be part of football again at a high level,” said Crouch, who will wear the No. 9.
The Nighthawks minicamp Crouch participated in last month was his first organized football activity in the past five years. In recent years, he’s sold playground equipment and medical supplies. Terms of his deal were not disclosed.
Crouch was a third-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2002. He was with three NFL teams but never played a regular-season game and last played in 2006, in the CFL.
Crouch acknowledged that he’s got ”a bit of rust” to work off, but said he has worked hard over the past few months to get in shape. He said he’s not looking past next season.
”I think I’m as ready as I have been,” Crouch said. ”I’m very confident my body will be in football shape by the first game.”
Coach Joe Moglia said he’s confident Crouch is ready to play and he believes a dual-threat quarterback will give the Nighthawks an advantage in the UFL.
”We want to create an offense where the quarterback is part of the attack to put pressure on the defense,” Moglia said.
Crouch will be competing for playing time with D.J. Shockley and rookie Jeremiah Masoli. Crouch said he would be OK with a back-up role if that’s where he ends up after training camp, which starts Friday.
”In an offense where you use the quarterback, you’re going to need multiple quarterbacks to get through the season,” Crouch said.
This fall will be the UFL’s third season as a haven for players who were cut in NFL training camps and veterans who want to get back to the NFL.
Crouch, a married father of two, has said he’s not trying to get another shot at the NFL. He said he just wants a chance to win a championship and to play in front of his family and friends.
”My motivation is competition on the field,” he said. ”I love the game of football and love to go out and compete.”
Signing Crouch will almost certainly help the Nighthawks gain publicity and sell tickets.
”I think it can only help,” Moglia said. ”Our job is to put a team on the field that Omaha will be proud of.”
Crouch grew up and played high school football in Omaha before becoming Nebraska’s third Heisman Trophy winner. After leaving St. Louis, Crouch tried out with the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs and played a season in NFL Europe before landing in Canada.
The 2010 Nighthawks featured former NFL Pro Bowlers in Jeff Garcia, Cato June and Ahman Green, as well as former Ohio State star Maurice Clarett. Garcia and Green no longer are on the roster.
Besides signing Crouch, the Nighthawks also picked up former Nebraska receiver Maurice Purify this week. Crouch and Purify join five other Nebraska players on the Nighthawks’ roster.