By Nick Abramo, Sports Columnist
WESTBOROUGH – A TV show based on the football playing days of the late Harry Crump would likely be a hit.
Small-town boy makes a name for himself as a fullback for the Westborough Rangers, Class of 1959. Goes on to star at Boston College. Makes the Boston Patriots in the early 1960s. Plays in the 1963 AFL championship game.
And this production has a ready-made title — “The Thump,” an onomatopoetic nickname based on Harry’s ability to bowl over would-be tacklers in the open field. His brother and teammate Ronald Crump, also a standout player for the Rangers, would be a main character, and his teenage friends and teammates would, perhaps, be driving around in a now-iconic ’57 Chevy Bel Air and hanging at the town diner.
Of course, black and white might be the way to go here since these, after all, are days gone by and, as the decades pass, more and more relegated to clippings than to actual memories.
Oh, but the memories are still there for many.
“As a senior, Harry was 205 pounds, and that was big for the time,” said Donald Ayres, Crump’s high school teammate. “Somebody from the opposing team’s secondary would try to tackle him, and he would run right over them. They would bounce off. He wouldn’t have to go around them. That was just him.”
A newspaper photograph of Crump at BC tackling Syracuse’s 1962 Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis is still in Ayres’ possession.
“He was on the [Westborough High School] team for six years, a rarity,” Ayres added. “That’s how talented he was. He was also on the baseball team from the seventh grade on. And as good as he was in football, in my opinion, he was even better [as a catcher] in baseball. In college [football], he played in the Senior Bowl and made a great showing.”
Bill Linnane, an offensive tackle who blocked for Crump on those Art Kojoyian-coached Rangers teams, remembers Harry as a fun-loving person and a party guy.
“My family knew his mom and dad,” Linnane said. “We were townies, as Harry was. He was a great individual and an excellent fullback, no question about it. We lost track of each other when we went off to college, but we reconnected while he was still at BC. I got to know some of his college and Patriots teammates, and I took Harry skiing for the first time. He was shocked to see what it looked like at the top of the mountain.”
Larry Eisenhauer, a 6-foot-5 defensive end, was one Patriots player who Linnane met through Crump.
“His hand wrapped around mine, and I looked straight up at him,” Linnane said about Eisenhauer. In three years at Boston College from 1960 to ’62, Crump rushed for 1,497 yards, gained 4.5 yards per carry, and scored 13 touchdowns. In 1962, the Eagles went 8-2, losing only to Syracuse and a Roger Staubach-led Navy squad.
Crump, who died at 80 in September of last year, was drafted by the Patriots in 1963 and played one AFL season for the team.
Wearing jersey No. 31, he started two of their 14 regular-season games, rushing for 120 yards on 49 carries for a 3.3 yards-per-carry average. He scored five touchdowns. In the AFL title game, a 51-10 loss to the San Diego Chargers, he rushed for 18 yards on seven carries and caught two passes for 28 yards.
A Sept. 24, 1961, Boston Globe story about Boston College’s 23-0 victory over Cincinnati brings Harry’s character supremely into focus. This tidbit can also serve as the opening scene of “The Thump” TV show:
At the half, as Boston College returned to the field, coach Ernie Hefferle walked up beside fullback Harry Crump.
“Harry,” he said. “When you hit the belly (a fullback dive play), bend back a little and shift so we can look at you run.” The first time the Eagles got the ball in the third period, Crump followed Hefferle’s suggestion (and) ran 28 yards for a touchdown on a nice fake. “Isn’t he a pretty runner?” asked Hefferle. “We just love to watch him run when he fakes like that.”
A 2016 Facebook post by Armen Kojoyian, the former Westborough coach’s son, adds credence to the Crump legend.
“In my 60-plus years of watching high school football, I never saw anyone carry the ball with such brute force as Harry,” Kojoyian wrote. “He could take down a wall in your house!”
No other former Westborough Rangers player has gone further in the football world than Harry Crump, who made his mark 60 years ago.
“Westborough has never had a football player like Harry Crump in my time or going forward,” said Joe Mewhiney, who was a physical education teacher, football coach, athletic director and vice principal in his 37-year career at WHS.
“And hearing from the townspeople, he’s probably the greatest football player Westborough High has seen,” Mewhiney added.