Man on Fire

By Scott Cole / January / February 2003
June 22nd, 2007

It’s easy to forget that college athletes are still growing. Take Adom Crew ’04. After arriving on campus in late summer 2000 as a five-foot, ten-inch, 160-pound kid, he had by late last year grown into a six-foot, two-inch, 190-pound force. Thanks to nature—and to his diligence in the weight room and on the practice field—Crew began the 2002 season as Brown’s most dominant soccer player.

Crew, a striker and one of the team’s cocaptains, opened the season by scoring at a stunning rate. During a mid-September weekend in New Haven, for example, he recorded the first hat trick of his career in a 3–1 win over Alabama A&M, and the next day he scored two more goals in a 5–1 victory over Vanderbilt. Thanks to this five-goal weekend, Brown took the Yale Classic championship, and Crew was the tournament’s MVP and that week’s Ivy League and ECAC Player of the Week. The next weekend Crew scored the lone goal in the Bears’ 2–1 loss to Harvard in the Ivy opener, and three days later he bagged both goals in a 2–0 vic-tory over the University of Rhode Island.

Eight games into the season, Crew, a native of Columbia, Maryland, was one of the hottest Division I players in the country. Although Brown lost that eighth game, 2–1, to the University of San Francisco, Crew scored Brown’s lone goal, his tenth of the season. The game was also the sixth in a row in which he’d had at least one goal, a string that was only three short of the school record of nine, held by Fred Pereira ’77 and Darren Eales ’95. Crew’s ten goals and two assists ranked him fourth nationally in scoring, and his goals-per-game average was good enough for third in Division I. To appreciate just how much Crew had developed, consider that during the previous season he had scored a total of three goals. In 2002, says coach Mike Noonan, “he was en fuego—on fire. I’ve never had anyone start that fast.”

But a few days after the game in San Francisco, while the Bears were back home preparing for their second Ivy League match, Crew’s season came to a painful end. Toward the end of a midweek practice, goalkeeper Peter Mahoney ’03 came out from the goal to smother the ball, which Crew was also approaching. While leaping out of Mahoney’s way, Crew experienced, as he now terms it, “an unstable landing.” An MRI revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He was done for the year.

Brown’s season was never the same after that. With as many as eight freshmen seeing playing time—the highest total in Noonan’s eight-year tenure—the two-time defending Ivy League champs were 3–3–2 at the time of Crew’s injury. Without his experience and skill, they went 2–5–2 the rest of the way to finish 5–8–4, their worst season since 1990. Their Ivy League record was 1–4–2, their first finish below .500 in ten years. In its first eight games, Brown scored seventeen goals; in its next nine, the team managed only six more scores. Although Crew played in fewer than half of the Bears’ games, he still ended the season as their leading scorer, with twenty-two points, a dozen ahead of the next-highest scorer, Ibrahim Diane ’06, who had four goals and two assists, and fifteen points ahead of Seth Quidachy-Swan ’04, who ended the season with three goals and one assist. Brown, which had entered the season having won or shared six Ivy titles over the past eight years, wound up 1–5 in one-goal games and 0–2–4 in overtime games. The Bears suffered shutout losses in each of their final three games.

“Adom was on a goal-a-game pace,” Noonan says. “There’s not many guys in the world scoring at that pace. But it’s more than just the goals he scored. He was a catalyst, someone who worked hard every day; he was a leader among his teammates and is an outstanding student. He’s a role model in every sense of the word.”

Crew, who had knee surgery in November, now faces months of physical therapy. “It’s frustrating,” he says. “I’ve got to work hard to get my strength and quickness back. I’m just going to concentrate on getting better and getting back to the level I was at this year.”

Fortunately, Crew also has a rich life away from the soccer field. He’s a first-rate student, and in November he added to his MVP and Player of the Week awards his citation as a men’s soccer District I Academic All-American. At the time, Crew was carrying a 3.45 grade point average. An economics concentrator, he is also enrolled in the Program in Liberal Medical Education, just in case he decides to become a physician. This past fall, while he was kicking soccer balls into goals, he was also doing homework in organic chemistry, physics, international trade, and international business.

“It’s difficult,” he says. “It’s a lot of work. But it’s just a matter of handling it all.” For Crew, Brown is a second home. He will be the fourth member of his immediate family to graduate, after his father, Spencer Crew ’71; his mother, Sandy Crew ’71; and his sister, Alika ’00. “A lot of people,” Adom says, “even at a school like Brown, see athletes in a different light [and think] they can’t do the work. It’s important to show them that you can do the work, that you work every bit as hard off the field as you do on the field.” In both places, he’s putting on quite a show.

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January / February 2003