Passion for football keeps SIU’s ‘Old Man’ feeling young
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Southern Illinois senior linebacker Cody Crider has done the math.
Three surgeries for a torn ACL.
Times six months of rehab for each injury.
That equals 18 months of his football career in which his main job was coming back from an injury.
“That’s a year-and-a-half doing nothing but rehab,” he said. “Having the passion for the game and the will power to get back on the field – that’s what drives you and motivates you. You don’t skip a rep (in rehab). There are some guys who tear their ACL once and never make it back because they didn’t rehab right.
“You’ve got to take that part very serious,” he said.
Crider’s attention to those rehab details, especially after tearing his left ACL three times – most recently in 2018 — led to the best season of his career last fall.
While helping a resurgent defense lift SIU (7-5) to its first winning season since 2013, Crider had the second most tackles on the team with 90 and earned second-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors.
That provided plenty of reason for Crider to apply for a sixth year of eligibility, which he was granted last month.
“It’s an opportunity to keep playing the game that I love,” he said. “We had a great season last year. It was definitely a building block for the program.”
Spencer Brown, who coaches SIU’s linebackers, said he learned immediately after the season that Crider was fully committed to 2020.
“I remember after that (North Dakota State) game finished up and we were hoping for the playoffs, he came in with a bright smile, saying ‘Coach, I’m not ready for it to be over with.’ Cody loves football. Motivating him is not too hard.”
Along with the all-conference honors, perhaps the biggest positive from Crider’s 2019 season was that he started 12 games for the first time in his career.
“The fact that we got him through a 12-game season was really exciting,” Brown said. “He asks the most questions. He puts in the most work watching film. And I know he’s going to be ready on game day.”
SIU head coach Nick Hill told the media before spring practice that Crider’s routine will be a bit different than most.
“We’ll probably hold off of Cody as a sixth-year player with those injuries,” he said. “He’ll be involved in a lot of the coaching and installs.”
Though the Salukis were passed over for the FCS playoffs last season, the team posted an impressive five-game winning streak in October and November that is serving as a springboard into current spring practices.
“We needed that after the last couple of years,” said Crider, who had never been part of a winning team in his SIU career. “It gave us some confidence. We knew we had the players to do it. We to to learn how to win and stick together as a team.”
The 2020 Salukis also will have to learn how to respond to the adversity of being left out of the FCS playoff field.
“I’ve still got a salty taste in my mouth,” Crider said. “I’ll never forget that day. We’ve got to work harder than we have before.”
Crider said the program has benefitted from a supportive, positive group of players and coaches. Yet that didn’t stop his teammates from commenting on their starting linebacker’s sixth season.
“A lot of people joked with me about it, calling me ‘Old Man,’” Crider said with a laugh. “I can count how many.”