Ask Dalton Crossan who he has modeled his playing style after, and he’ll rattle off two names.
The first person: Walter Payton. Understandable, since the Hall of Famer is one of the best running backs ever. Crossan even wore No. 34 at Sachem North in honor of “Sweetness.”
The second name?
“Marcus Stroman,” Crossan said. “We actually played on a flag football team together growing up.”
Of course, Stroman — the ace of the Toronto Blue Jays and a World Baseball Classic champion — doesn’t play much football these days. But Crossan, a Lake Ronkonkoma native, is following his friend’s footsteps as he prepares for the NFL Draft.
“He’s someone that’s especially talked about as being overlooked because of height, not going as high as he hoped out of high school in the draft, so he went to Duke and wound up going in the first round,” Crossan said. “And then he wouldn’t be a starting pitcher. And obviously everything he’s doing now is proving everybody wrong.”
Crossan, the co-winner of the Hansen Award in 2011 as Suffolk’s most outstanding high school football player, faces similar stigmas after a productive career at New Hampshire. The Wildcats, who play in the FCS, aren’t exactly the LSU Tigers or Florida State Seminoles, so Crossan must work harder to shake the “small-school” label and prove he belongs in the conversation with the other running backs in this draft class.
“I think I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder, even growing up and everything,” he said. “Not that I’ve been overlooked, per se — I mean, I definitely have been overlooked in some aspects — but it’s kind of just not getting the credit you think you deserve and knowing that you’re as good if not better than everybody else that you’re competing with.”
Crossan wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, but at his pro day on March 15, the 5-11, 204-pounder ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, did 21 reps on the bench press, posted a 35-inch vertical and 10-2 broad jump and clocked 6.84 seconds in the three-cone and 4.06 in the short shuttle.
The NFL Combine uses electronic timing, while pro days often are done by hand. Still, Crossan’s bench press would have tied for sixth among running backs in Indianapolis, his broad jump would have been eighth and his vertical would have tied for 10th.
“It’s something that I’ve always known, that I’ve been right up there with the best guys in this draft,” Crossan said, “but it was nice to put those numbers on paper and just let them check that box that, ‘OK, he’s definitely athletic enough.’”
Crossan’s biggest calling card: his versatility. He had 5,189 all-purpose yards — 2,167 rushing yards, 779 receiving yards, 1,793 return yards-- in four seasons at New Hampshire, and ranked 12th in the FCS last season with 1,977 all-purpose yards.
“I think he was the best all-around player offensively — between running, catching, returns and all that stuff — in the league,” New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell said of Crossan. “He was just dynamic when he touched the ball . . . It was really a pleasure to see a kid go through four years and develop into that kind of player and become a pro prospect.”
Crossan said the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers put him through private workouts on campus, and New England Patriots scouts ran his pro day at the school and attended his games during the season. He also attended both the Jets’ and Giants’ pro days for local prospects.
Crossan will spend the draft with family on Long Island. He certainly hopes to be drafted — every player wants to get that phone call — but he knows there are only 253 picks. As a late-round prospect in a deep class of running backs, his chances are slim.
Still, he said he wouldn’t be too upset if he’s an undrafted free agent.
“A lot of times you hear that it’s better to go as a priority free agent than to go in a late round just because the opportunities are pretty much the same, and the money’s very similar, and you get to pick where you go instead of getting chosen,” Crossan said. “Obviously it’s very cool to be drafted, and I’d love to be drafted, but either way it’ll be good news.”