Growing up on Long Island, New Hampshire running back Dalton Crossan liked lacrosse. It’s the sport everybody seems to play in that part of the country.
But he loved football.
As he neared the end of his career at Sachem North High School, recruiters from both sports made overtures to him. He listened to all of them. How could he not, considering those who wanted him for lacrosse included such storied schools as Michigan and Notre Dame?
Ultimately, however, he followed his heart. Ultimately he went from multi-sport star to multi-dimensional football threat.
The 5-11, 205-pound senior leads CAA Football in all-purpose yardage with 966, an average of 161 a game. That breaks down to 619 yards on the ground (5.1 a pop), 161 on 24 receptions and 186 on nine kickoff returns. He is fourth in the conference in rushing, ninth in receiving and 10th in kickoff-return average (20.7).
He figures to be as busy as ever when the Wildcats (4-2) host James Madison (5-1) Saturday on ASN. Both teams are 3-0 in CAA Football play, and part of a three-way tie for the conference lead with Villanova.
Because of a scheduling quirk, it is the first meeting between the ’Cats and the Dukes since 2013, when Crossan was a redshirt freshman. He had one reception for 18 yards in that game, a 33-17 UNH victory.
“I definitely think that I’ll have more of an impact three years later,” he said with a chuckle, “so I’m excited.”
That has been the case each of the last two years. In 2015, he accounted for 1,708 all-purpose yards, including 885 on the ground (5.1 a carry), for a team that made the FCS playoffs for the past 12 years, the longest streak in FCS. He was named an All-CAAF third-teamer as a result.
This season he has done things like rush for a career-high 199 yards against Holy Cross in Week 2, catch 10 balls a week later in a loss to Dartmouth and run for 87 yards or more each week during the Wildcats’ current three-game winning streak.
That includes a 28-carry, 152-yard outburst in last week’s 13-10 victory at Elon. The game was moved up a day because of the looming threat of Hurricane Matthew, and while there were pregame showers, Crossan said conditions were fine once play began.
Still, the teams were locked in a 10-10 tie deep into the fourth quarter. That’s when Crossan exploded, carrying four straight times to open a drive that began at the New Hampshire 20 with 5:33 left, after a missed Phoenix field goal.
He netted 55 yards on those attempts, the last a 30-yarder on a “simple inside zone play,” as he put it, to the Elon 25.
“The line did a great job, got out to the second level,” he said, “and I just kind of made one move on the safety and went around the left side.”
That led to a 35-yard field goal by Morgan Ellman with 2:09 to play, and the Wildcats held on.
“It’s great just being on the field with my best friends, with my teammates, doing my part to help us get some wins,” Crossan said.
He rushed for 4,224 yards while playing at two high schools, 2,196 of those his senior year at Sachem North. But he had excelled at lacrosse as well, leading to his dilemma.
“I always knew I liked football more — that I loved football, and I didn’t really love lacrosse,” he said. “But I entertained the lacrosse side of it and went through the recruiting process because of the schools that were recruiting me — how good academically they were and just how good overall they were. I definitely didn’t want to close any doors.”
So he visited Michigan and Notre Dame, and considered places like Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany and Fordham for football, in addition to New Hampshire.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “I just decided I wanted to play football.”
He piled up 930 all-purpose yards in 2013, for a team that reached the FCS semifinals. But the following year he was dogged by persistent hamstring problems – “unbelievably frustrating,” he said — and played in just six games as UNH again reached the semis.
Since then it has been clear sailing, in every way. He is on schedule to graduate in December with a degree in marketing/management, having previously interned at Sports 1 Marketing in Irvine, Calif., a company run by former NFL quarterback Warren Moon.
And in the spring he will step up his workouts in hopes of an invitation to an NFL camp.
But there is more to do right now. Then again, that’s always the case for a guy who has done so much marvelous multi-tasking.