By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Westborough/Northborough – Northborough’s Greg Crippen capped a winding road to football fame, Dec. 16, by signing his national letter of intent to play Division 1 football at the University of Michigan.
Decked in Wolverines apparel inside the Exceed Performance gym in Westborough, Crippen said the magnitude of his accomplishment had not been lost. He had just overcome a set of geographic barriers that often keep other Massachusetts athletes off the NCAA gridiron.
“In Massachusetts, football just isn’t as big,” he explained in an interview shortly before his actual signing. “The following of people isn’t as big. That plays a role in why Massachusetts isn’t looked at as one of the bigger states in the football world.”
Soft spoken but always built broad, Crippen played youth football in Northborough primarily as a quarterback. He switched out of public schools for his freshman year of high school, though, leaving town sponsored sports, in kind, and seeking more regional attention by playing on the prestigious Milton Academy team.
That boosted Crippen’s status further, attracting the attention of college coaches and helping Crippen secure, in the short term, a transfer to IMG Academy in Florida. IMG is known for its football success, which helped even further elevate Crippen as a sophomore in high school.
“There are athletes up here,” Crippen said of the football talent pool in Massachusetts and, conversely, his rationale for moving south. “There are talented people, for sure. But it’s harder if you stay here.”
Now headed to Michigan, the region’s latest sports star brings with him a cell phone full of contact info for A-list coaches around the country.
As early as that freshman season at Milton Academy, Crippen was attracting attention from recruiters. That summer, he was then meeting with famed Wolverine coach Jim Harbaugh as Harbaugh offered a full ride football scholarship.
Crippen didn’t commit that day. In fact, he initially even accepted an offer to play at the University of Notre Dame upon his high school graduation. Two years and a sudden decommitment from Notre Dame later, though, Crippen is back in Harbaugh’s circle, now as a player on his team.
“I really trust him…,” Crippen said of Harbaugh and the Wolverine program in general. “They’re really committed to me as much as I’m committed to them. It feels really genuine.”
The feeling is mutual. Speaking with Yahoo Sports this month, Harbaugh lauded Crippen for his strength and high school success.
“He’s very smart,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to be a center most likely and directing the run game, directing protections. He’s very capable of doing that and he has been doing it at a high level in high school.”
His letter of intent signed, Crippen will now head to Ann Arbor in January for a head start on training prior to his first full season with the Wolverines next fall.