Game in London a homecoming for Cowboys’ Crawford

Move over, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Jack Crawford is now one of the most popular Cowboys players. For this week, anyway.

The Cowboys are in London to play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. London-born Crawford, before now a little-known defensive end, is a star back in his native land.

"It’s amazing," Crawdord said. "Only my brother has seen me, come to an NFL game, and I didn’t get to see him until the very end of the game. For me, it will be a special experience just to play in front of so many of my friends and family who try to keep up with me over here. It will be a special experience, the experience of a lifetime for me."

As the one player who knows his way around London, Crawford is also popular with his teammates. However, with a busy schedule of practices and publicity events Crawford himself hasn’t had a lot of time to visit with friends and family."

"After the game on Sunday night, I’ll take time," Crawford said. "I have about 30 people coming to the game.We are going to spend time, family and stuff, and seeing them as much as I can while I’m here. At the same time, focus on the task at hand and prepare for the Jaguars."

Crawford found his way to American football through basketball. He moved to America in high school to improve his game as a basketball player. However, when coaches at his New Jersey prep school saw his rare combination of size and speed – he’s now 6-5, 275 – they put him in pads and a helmet.

Crawford was set loose on defense, where he impressed Penn State scouts enough to earn a scholarship.

He was good enough to get drafted in the fifth round by the Oakland Raiders two years ago. When Oakland cut him just before the start of this season, the Cowboys signed him.

The Cowboys didn’t sign Crawford because of his British roots, but it has been a happy coincidence for him. Now he just has to figure out how to pay for all those tickets for friends and family.

"People just think they’re free (tickets) too," Crawford said. "They don’t think they cost anything for me."

And what do his English friends think of American football? 

"If you don’t know the rules, then it’s just ‘Stop. Stop. Stop.’ (Stoppage in play) And it’s boring," Crawford said. "But if you understand the rules, then it’s exciting. I think it’s the most exciting sport, to be honest. Once you understand it, I just think that more and more people will catch on."

The Cowboys are practicing this week at the field of a London rugby club. Crawford was asked to explain why rugby players can tackle without any pads on while NFL players need protection.

"Some people say the game is soft because we wear so much equipment," Crawford said. "In rugby you don’t wear so much equipment, but rugby is more of a side-to-side game, whereas American football is head on, so you need the equipment or your career would only last a couple of weeks."

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire