Debut week

It was Andrew Crummey's first appearance in the community and Anthony Munoz's 5,123rd or so. But the greatest Bengals offensive lineman in history made the newest feel at home.

"Great event," Munoz said Tuesday at the ballooned and bejeweled Cystic Fibrosis Celebrity Luncheon at Paul Brown Stadium. "I guess I've been with CF more than 20 years. I remember in the early '80s doing track events with corporations at a local junior high."

Rookie centers who have been in a town for just six weeks don't usually meet guys like Munoz or high-five drop-dead gorgeous TV anchors or talk businessmen out of 75 bucks. Like Crummey says, "I'm not a celebrity celebrity."

But the sign in the locker room asked for volunteers and even though he was just 48 hours removed from what amounted to his NFL debut ("I haven't really got into the Cincinnati scene yet," he said), Crummey showed up.


Crummey
He looked down at his handwritten name tag and then at the custom-made printed version belonging to Shayne Graham. Graham, the highly-visible Bengals kicker who has become a community staple and arrived at this event as the honorary chairman, ended up sitting at a table with another highly visible Cincinnatian and friend in singer Nick Lachey. Crummey's boy band had been along an anonymous front line in College Park, Md.

"No. No one knows who I am," said Crummey, signing autographs and taking pictures with guests sneaking peeks at his name tag. "But it's always been that way as an offensive lineman. Only if you're a left tackle or a charismatic guard. I'm used to it."

Also at the big-time table? Keith Rivers, the No. 1 pick whose injury gave the free-agent Crummey a shot. Such is life in the NFL.

"I'm fighting for a job every day; I know that," Crummey said. "You want to get involved in the community. You want to be active. But you know in the back of your mind you could be gone tomorrow."

Crummey felt like Tuesday would be a good time to get involved even though not many quite knew No. 60.

"I missed the boat on the food bank. I got a little confused. New town. Different people running things," Crummey said of the team's Thanksgiving Week trip to the Freestore. "We did some (community) things in college. Mostly reading to elementary schools. And the Redskins were big on it. I was in a golf tournament there. And I like doing it."

Crummey may be gone tomorrow, but Dave Gajus of Anderson Township showed up today. Since he qualifies as a Bengals fan, he had heard of Crummey and he came over to get an autograph on his football and talk about Sunday's game.

"I really thought Hebert's play was great; the way he ran down Harrison like that," said Gajus of safety Kyries Hebert's 60-yard sprint to haul down Marvin Harrison from behind. "That's the kind of stuff that keeps us coming back because it shows we're not giving up."

"Usually a guy will clip a guy at the feet or the ankles to trip up a guy like that," Crummey said. "But he caught up to him and yanked him down by the shoulder."

"He really took it to him," said Gajus, who wondered if Crummey had a card so he could send him some coupons from his company.

Crummey was surprised that a bystander never heard of the place.

"Sure. Barilla. Pasta," Crummey said with a smile. "I've heard of it. Food."

If Crummey looks and sounds like the kid next door with a sweater, light beard, and ready smile, he is. Albeit a rather large one at 6-5, 300 pounds.

"I grew up on Xavier basketball, 700 WLW and Skyline Chili," Crummey said. "I only grew up two and a half hours from here. I wasn't much of a football fan, but my brother Pat is a diehard Bengals fan."

The son of a lawyer and nurse in Van Wert, a town of about 10,000 in northwest Ohio, Crummey played at Maryland before the Redskins signed him as a free agent and put him on the practice squad. When the Bengals put Rivers on injured reserve Oct. 21, they thought it was time to poach Crummey, a guy that played guard at Maryland but whom the Bengals thought projected to an NFL center when they did their draft reports. Tough, experienced as a starter for three-and-a-half seasons, and with just about the right dimensions, Crummey also impressed them with a high score on the mental agility test.

The Redskins must have thought so, too, because they played him at center for three quarters against the Jets in the preseason.

"I'd played center for a week or two at a time in practice, but that's the first time I'd ever played in a game. I played all right," said Crummey, who mopped up Sunday in Indianapolis at center in about the last 10 snaps of the game, which, except for a couple of field goals at guard in the last couple of games, were his first NFL plays from scrimmage.

Actually, it turns out his first true NFL scrimmage snap came on the Bengals' best chance to score a touchdown in the second quarter on third down from the 2. He was put in at tight end on what turned out to be the opposite side of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's dropped pass to fullback Dan Coats.

"I'm used to being to being framed by people, but I was the last guy on the line of scrimmage, it was loud, and I could barely see the ball," said Crummey, who also knew he was about to get the Pro Bowl spin move from Dwight Freeney. "I ended up on the ground. He got me, but it was a quick pass to the other side. If I'd been a little more comfortable I would have been OK. I wouldn't have kicked out so fast."


Crummey and Cynthia Dammel at the CF luncheon.
That's been the kind of whirlwind Crummey has been in during the last six weeks. From the scout team to scouting Freeney. He kept a bag packed in Washington because he knew as a member of the practice squad he could be anywhere at a moment's notice. Sometimes it works out just right. He signed on a Tuesday and got a call from a college friend. His brother had moved to Cincinnati the same day to start a job and now they've got a place they share in Hyde Park. He's also surrounded by a ton of relatives and had Thanksgiving with an aunt's family "somewhere off I-275."

"I'm finding out about the NFL what every rookie is finding out," Crummey said. "Some teams like you and give you a chance. Some teams don't. None of it is up to you. It's the coaches and the organization and you have to do what they give you the chance to do."

He's also finding out there is "a lot of down time in the NFL. You've got most of Monday off, all of Tuesday, most of Friday off and most of Saturday off. I'd rather do this than be at home watching TV."

Some local TV celebrities are always a big part of the event. And Mr. Perfect, Tom Browning, the man who is the greatest Reds storyteller on earth now that Joe Nuxhall is spinning them in heaven, always works a crowd. But Tina Glass, the CF luncheon's chairperson, knows that former and current Bengals still bring the donors out despite the record.

"They still want to meet Marvin (Lewis) and Shayne and some of the other guys and they're trying hard," she said. "They're helping us raise over $100,000 and that's a neat day for this organization. I don't know (Crummey), but for him to show up helps us out."

The idea is that each celebrity is paired with a volunteer holding some balloons. After walking down the big staircase in the club lounge overlooking the city, they fan out among the tables selling balloons containing gift certificates. Crummey got paired with Cynthia Dammel, a fortuitous match for him because she turned out to be a real estate agent from Mount Lookout that had not only worked the event before but could talk about Hyde Park.

"This is such a good event for the organization and I've got a lot of down time at this time of year," she said. "And I have a lot of friends that do it."

Dammel, who is a Bengals follower, revealed a simple strategy of selling the balloons with a player she admitted, "I hadn't heard of until today."

"I went around and told them I had with me this good-looking guy from the Cincinnati Bengals," she said. "That was to mostly the ladies."

They sold one for 50 bucks but only before Crummey assured the guy that he wasn't offended he was paying for it with a Jets credit card and that he was a New York fan.

Crummey did catch a little bit of heat because they had the last unsold balloon and it certainly wasn't Dammel's fault. But as she observed, "We were the last ones out of the gate." They ended up at a table of knowledgeable fans who would know which lineman was pass eligible on Sunday.

"I couldn't let him walk around with that balloon," said Mike Kolthoff, account manager for APG Office Furnishings.

After Crummey sold that one, he got the high five from "the anchor lady on Channel 4. Or is it 5?" and then started looking for a table to sit and eat. Hebert, Graham, Eric Henderson and Frostee Rucker had already walked down the stairs and now some other Bengals were showing up, like Rivers and Dhani Jones.

"The different thing about the NFL is that you've got guys in all stages of life that live all over," he said. "Some guys are my age and already have a wife and kid. Some guys live all the way up in Mason or over in Kentucky."

Crummey was thinking back to his conversation with Munoz when Munoz was talking about why he gave so much back to the town.

"Great town," he said. "They gave me a chance to play here for 13 years."

But Crummey was trying to remember exactly something he had said about that.

"I liked his line," Crummey said. "Much is given. Much is expected."

Even if you've got a handwritten name tag.  

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