Courtney Crutchfield walks into the Pine Bluff High School Multiplex wearing headphones and a funky cool hoodie. He looks every bit the football star he is quickly becoming.
Younger players rush up to him and say in sing-song unison, “Have you made a decision?”
“Nah,” he said, smiling.
While Crutchfield previously said he wouldn’t make a decision until early next fall, he has apparently changed his mind. Crutchfield announced on Sunday through his Twitter account that he will announce his commitment this Friday.
Where the four-star wide receiver lands is a mystery, but he recently gave a clue in an interview with Best of Arkansas Sports, “The SEC is where it’s at when it comes to football.”
There are other clues, too. As of Wednesday, on his Instagram account, pictures exist of Crutchfield in team uniforms for four colleges – LSU, TCU, Ole Miss and Auburn. All have made him offers. On his Twitter account, there are more pictures of him in college uniforms in tweets where he thanks coaches who have also offered.
Crutchfield received his first on Dec. 7, 2022, from Missouri. About a week later, he received one from Vanderbilt.
Since then, Crutchfield has been recruited by nearly every SEC university – including his home state school, Arkansas, which made an offer on Jan. 21.
Other SEC offers include South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Crutchfield also has offers from Houston, Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma. Even before the 2022 football season, Crutchfield received an offer from UAPB in basketball, a sport where he also excels.
But he’s chosen football as his college sport.
Courtney Crutchfield and Arkansas Football
Arkansas football is the only school with a “warm” rating on his 247Sports profile. Auburn, Iowa State, Kansas State and LSU are “cool” ratings.
Recruiting experts at Rivals and 247Sports have predicted that Crutchfield will commit to Fayetteville on Friday. While it’s almost a certainty, Crutchfield also likes cities like Baton Rouge that are near NFL teams like the New Orleans Saints.
As a junior for the Zebras in 2022, Crutchfield caught 25 passes for 706 yards and 11 touchdowns, plus added 46 yards on six carries. Defensively, he made 32 tackles, 25 of which were solo. He also averaged 15.6 yards on 13 punt returns, with one going for a touchdown.
Crutchfield, who has been on the Hogs’ radar since his sophomore year, said he likes Fayetteville and wants to stay close to home. He attended last weekend’s Red-White spring game, and that may have been all it took for Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman to woo the Zebra wide receiver.
This weekend’s visit was Crutchfield’s second time on the campus.
In his first unofficial visit in January, Crutchfield said he felt a “bonding thing” with the Hogs’ coaches and players. That bonding thing includes coaches asking him about the most important thing in his life – his mom – especially wide receiver coach Kenny Guiton.
“Not one time has he not asked about my mom,” Crutchfield said. “My most concern is to make sure my mom is straight with where I go. She plays a big role in my life. Me and my dad talk but my mom has been there every step of the way with me.”
Crutchfield recently lost his grandmother – his mom’s mom – and he has been beside her as both of them have moved through the grieving process.
“That’s been hard on my mom,” he said.
When the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Crutchfield, a stellar basketball player, received the ball after scoring more than 1,300 points in his high school basketball career, he immediately walked over to courtside in Pine Bluff’s gym and handed his mom, Danyell Hughes, the ball.
An athletic force on the football field and the basketball court, Crutchfield helped to lead the Zebras to the Class 5A basketball championship in Hot Springs in March, beating Lake Hamilton 67-51. He was named MVP of that win.
Crutchfield also plays Zebra baseball and is a track and field athlete.
On April 5, he jumped 6 feet, 5 inches in his first time competing in the high jump. He had never previously practiced the high jump and decided to give it a try. He cleared it on his second attempt.
That’s the kind of athlete Crutchfield is.
Loving the Razorbacks
Like most Arkansans, Crutchfield, a Pine Bluff native, grew up watching the Razorbacks.
“We don’t have an NFL team so you know, the Razorbacks are kind of it,” Crutchfield said. “It’s where you dream of going when you are a kid. Every kid does it.”
Now his dream may become reality.
After his visits, Crutchfield is impressed by the structure of the Arkansas football program. He also said that he told the coaches he wants to play his freshman year and not sit on the bench. Crutchfield said that he was told he would get to play his first year on the team.
Crutchfield also connects with the athletic department’s “vibe” and likes that no one in the program is “sweet talking” him.
“Arkansas has down-to-earth coaches,” he said. “They get me. Coach Pittman is funny when we have FaceTime. They all know who I am.”
Pine Bluff Zebra head football coach Micheal Williams has been guiding Crutchfield through the recruiting process. This past season was his first year on the job and he turned the program around, tripling Zebras win total from two in 2021 to six in 2022.
A 2002 Pine Bluff High School graduate, Williams arrived in Pine Bluff from Duncanville, Texas, where he was a receivers coach and recruiting coordinator for the powerhouse Panthers. He is a scholar about the complicated world of recruiting.
The DI athletes – from wide receivers to quarterbacks – he has helped are too long to list but include Razorback Jordan Crook, Alabama’s Kendrick Blackshire, Utah’s Ja’Quinden Jackson and Missouri’s Ennis Rackstraw. Last December, Williams helped senior Zebra tight end Jordon Harris sign with Missouri.
One thing Williams repeatedly tells his players is no matter how many colleges make offers, be calm about the chaos surrounding offers.
“Coach says stay humble and keep working and that will get you to the next level,” Crutchfield said.
He tries to do that, he said, although he is a local celebrity in Pine Bluff. Janitors on the PBHS campus stop him to take selfies as do players in youth leagues around the city.
While the DI offering circus could go to his head, Crutchfield tries not to let it. He also helps his peers who are going through the same process and gives them advice.
“I tell them if coaches stay in touch, it shows that they want you to come,” he said. “Every coach I’ve talked to has stayed in touch. If they don’t, don’t worry about them.”
But there’s something about one coach that has stayed in Crutchfield’s mind, and that’s Guiton.
“That’s my guy,” Crutchfield said.
Ultimately, wherever Crutchfield lands, he said he knows his career is in his hands, not the coaches.
“Coaches can’t do it for you, you have to do it for yourself,” he said. “You have to want to succeed.”
“Success” for Crutchfield is to make it to the NFL. While every student-athlete has that dream at some point in their high school careers, Crutchfield may have what it takes to go the distance. Williams thinks Crutchfield has exactly what it takes to go pro.
“Courtney is a sports savant,” Williams said. “He can go DI in every sport, but he chose football. I believe if he keeps working, he will be a successful NFL football player or coach one day.”
Suzi Parker is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times Magazine, The Economist, The Daily Beast and many other national and international publications. She is the founder of the sports newsletter, The Human Side of Sports.
Check out some highlights of Courtney Crutchfield from his junior season at Pine Bluff High:
More coverage of Arkansas recruiting and Arkansas football from BoAS…