NOTRE DAME, Ind. (WNDU) - Heading into this season, the Irish secondary was expected to be strong, and it's gotten an added bonus with a healthy Shaun Crawford in the mix.
Crawford has had a tough road back, suffering three separate season-ending injuries.
Two torn ACLs and a torn Achilles tendon is enough to make anyone walk away from the game they love. But not Shaun Crawford.
His toughness through it all has now earned him a starting cornerback position. And in his comeback season, Crawford is more than ready to make an impact.
"There was a lot of doubt, too, I'm not going to lie," he said.
After yet another offseason spent rehabbing, Shaun Crawford is back where he belongs.
"I just take it day by day and just try to give back to those who have supported me throughout the way," he said.
Crawford credits his family, teammates and coaches for getting him back on the field.
"Coach [Brian] Kelly ultimately was one of the people that I've got to give a lot of credit to for not giving up on me and just believing in me," the cornerback said.
One thing his teammates are thrilled to have back? Crawford's mind.
"We got talking about a guy who's overcome a lot of things, just the mindset he has every day coming out to work. He's probably the smartest DBs we have," defensive lineman Julian Okwara said.
"Shaun is one of our smartest football players in terms of his football intelligence and his understanding of the game," defensive backs coach Todd Lyght said.
Against Louisville, Crawford nabbed four tackles in his first game in nearly two years.
"Physically, he came out outstanding," Kelly said. "I think mentally is where he feels really good. Going forward, he continues to obviously get back to where he was after a year of fighting through the injuries."
"It's definitely exciting to have him back, and he's having fun out there," Okwara said.
"He brings a lot of value to our team with his position versatility, being able to play both safety and nickel and corner, and he's an outstanding player," Lyght said.
Crawford says through his extensive rehab, he was able to reconnect with his faith.
"I'm thankful for the injuries," he said. "I'm still here playing this game. So I'm just appreciative."
He says his injuries taught him there's more to life than football, but that doesn't mean he'll take any moment for granted.
"It's about just having fun and not worrying about the rest just because I'm grateful and just thankful for the opportunity of being out there," Crawford said.
Crawford and his coaches are focused on keeping him healthy throughout the rest of this season.
And while the end of the season is still far away, Crawford says it will mark the end of his college career; he doesn't plan on applying for a sixth year of eligibility.