Jeff Hecklinski, San Diego State’s offensive coordinator, made a phone call Sunday to extend a scholarship to Norco High School quarterback Kyle Crum. SDSU was the first school to offer the 2022 signal-caller. When Hecklinski reached out, Crum had company; it made the moment even more special.
“I received the call today with two of my best friends at my home,” Crum told EVT on Sunday, the day SDSU offered. “It was amazing to share the moment with them. Coach Hecklinski had told me they were very interested in me, but I was still surprised and just overcome with happiness.”
Crum’s slow recruitment is perplexing. He is the starting quarterback on the 7th best team in Southern California. Last season, his first as a starter, he led Norco to an undefeated season, which included a win over powerhouse Corona Centennial High. Centennial came into the contest riding a 57 game winning streak in league play, and Norco had not defeated the Huskies since 2009. Crum was the player of the game and turned in an impressive performance with 159 passing, 125 yards rushing, and three touchdowns. The victory was so special the players, coaches, and even Norco’s principal spontaneously jumped into the school’s pool to celebrate.
This past Friday, Centennial got a measure of revenge, defeating Norco 48-24. Even in defeat, Crum was the clear star of the game. Though under pressure all night, he passed for 326 yards and scored three touchdowns without turning the ball over. He outdueled Huskies quarterback Israel Carter, who holds offers from Colorado and Oregon.
While Crum receiving his first offer this late in the recruiting cycle is odd given his size, play, and evident leadership traits, it is not hard to see why SDSU covets his services. The three governing characteristics of SDSU’s program are toughness, a passion for football, and personal integrity. They do their due diligence to ascertain whether a player shares their core values before extending an offer, so it is not surprising Crum possesses these qualities at an elite level.
“Toughness” for the Aztecs means more than aggressiveness. It includes ideas like grit, competitiveness, and staying true to a goal despite opposition. Crum has displayed this quality throughout his high school career. His freshman year, he went to Centennial High before transferring to Norco. At Norco, he saw infrequent time as a sophomore before taking the reins as a junior. Throughout, he had the goal of playing division one football and did not let a lack of offers deter him from his process.
“For fans that haven’t seen me play, I would describe myself as a ‘gamer’ who will do whatever it takes for my team to be successful,” Crum said. “I can stay in the pocket and throw the ball on time, but I can also escape the pocket and scramble to make some big plays.”
SDSU’s value of passion or love for football encompasses not so much the amount of time players spend working on their craft but the quality they bring when they hone their skills. “Focused practice” could be another way of communicating this quality. Coaches do not want to chase players down to work hard or have external motivations be what brings out the best in their athletes. When a player loves football, they enjoy the hard work of getting better at football. The genesis of Crum’s internal motivation emerged within the community he lives in. The Inland Empire is passionate about the sport, and from the youngest age, children in the area idolize the high school players who play for Centennial, Norco, and the other schools in the region. His college coaches will never have to coach his effort. He practices diligently, watches a lot of film and is engaged in the little things that often portend success.
The third value, “personal integrity,” is a very broad term in the eyes of the Aztecs staff. It is a phrase that describes doing what it is right no matter the circumstance. It includes the kind of student a person is, the quality of relationships they have, and taking pride in one’s actions on and off the field. Crum has a 4.5 GPA, takes nearly all honors classes, and is part of a vibrant community who celebrated SDSU’s offer with him.
“My family was ecstatic when I told them,” Crum said. “I’ve been getting really nice texts and calls from all of my family members, coaches, and friends all day. I really think I’ll remember today.”
In addition to lining up on values, SDSU has other advantages in Crum’s recruitment. The university excels academically in a number of fields Crum has interest studying further, including nursing, psychology, and his current favorite, business. In addition, the Aztecs are opening what Crum describes as “the cherry on top,” a new stadium the first year he potentially will step onto campus. Crum told EVT he is taking an unofficial visit on Thursday and could see himself committing if it goes well.
No matter where Crum’s recruitment goes from here, SDSU will always hold a special place for him. It was the school that officially made him a scholarship athlete. All of the work he has put in was tangibly rewarded Sunday in an unforgettable phone call with Jeff Hecklinski.