Bryson Crawford, center, signs his letter of intent with UCO last week at Marlow High School. Crawford was joined by his mother, Lisa, brother, Devin, and Marlow officials.

Signing day has passed and the stress of the recruiting process is an afterthought. Now the real work begins.

The parties can take a back seat. Unproductive weekends will turn into opportunities to improve and prepare for what only a handful of high school athletes will experience come summer. An overloaded equation of proper diet, cardio and strength training divided by the common denominator of class work might prove easy to figure out in high school, but it’s time to step up to the accelerated classes.

It’s the first day of the work week and the overcast sky evokes the lyrics of The Carpenters’ “Rainy Days and Mondays.” Inside the Marlow High School library, two students sit at a table diagonal from the Outlaws’ only football player to sign with a college. The 6-3, 205-pound linebacker has a stoic look, as if the lyrics from the Carpenters’ classic are playing in his mind, too. The stillness disappears when asked about his future in college football.

“It’s absolutely great, I get to continue doing what I love,” Marlow outside linebacker Bryson Crawford said with an ear-to-ear grin. “I’m just ready to get up there and show them what an old Marlow boy can do.”

The Outlaws’ leading sack-man signed with the University of Central Oklahoma on Feb. 6 after considering offers from East Central and Southeast Oklahoma State University. ECU was the first to offer Crawford a scholarship, followed by SOSU, but it was the Bronchos who won over the All-Area linebacker.

“I went up there by myself for a visit and was just impressed by the facilities,” Crawford said. “I also liked that fact that they recruited heavy in-state. I enjoyed meeting the coaches and felt that the location was best for me as well.”

The hour-and-a-half drive will give Crawford’s family and Marlow supporters the opportunity to see Crawford display the same intensity, athleticism and ability that he did for the past two seasons. After transferring from Pauls Valley at the end of his sophomore year, Crawford helped guide Marlow to a state runner-up finish the next season and a playoff berth this season. Crawford’s standout senior season saw him finish with 107 tackles, 11 sacks and three fumble recoveries.

Playing in a 3-3-5 defense, Crawford often lined up in a 2-point at the line of scrimmage. His quickness often enabled him to blow up plays in the backfield and chase them down to the opposite side of the field. UCO coaches want him to play as a “rover,” where he will have to cover more ground, but also have the chance to make more plays.

“I know they want me to play like a Roy Williams type of position, only just cover guys better,” Crawford joked. “I’m not really sure about the particulars of the scheme, but I know I will be off the line of scrimmage. Now I can get a full head of steam on the blitz.”

The relief of signing his letter of intent gives Crawford a clear mind to prepare for his freshman year of college. He is staying in shape by playing baseball and is looking to add 10 pounds of muscle before camp. He’s decided to room with Plainview standout Cort Edmonds and has contacted fellow Broncho signee and Duncan tight end Bryce Davis about the fall. Most importantly, Crawford feels, is that he doesn’t have to worry about paying for college.

“That was my goal from the beginning,” Crawford said of his recruitment. “To know I would have school paid for was the most refreshing thing about signing. I didn’t get my first offer until the season was over, and that was kind of nerve-wracking. I’m just glad to have it official.”

Crawford spent signing day with his mother, Lisa, and younger brother, Devin, along with Marlow coaches. Crawford said the day was special for him and his family, but he was just ready to get it over with.

“I wasn’t nervous or anything like that, I was just ready to sign,” Crawford said. “I couldn’t help but think about the whole recruiting process and how stressful it was. I’m happy for my family and my team.”

Crawford’s father Kevin is serving in the U.S. Army and is stationed in Kuwait. Crawford wishes that his father could have been there at his signing day, but he realizes that he has a whole college career’s worth of games for his father to watch.

“He has had a great influence on me as a football player and it would have been great for him to be there,” Crawford said. “I look forward to him seeing me play at UCO.”

Crawford added that the Friday night experience will be greatly missed, but Saturday’s will be a lot of fun.

“I’m ready to strap it on, and hit the field,” Crawford said. “Hopefully, the folks in Marlow can come up and watch us play.”

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