MANKATO – Having witnessed his mother walk through the door at 10:30 every night after a 16-hour workday and knowing his father, with only one leg, labored through his job at a warehouse, Scott Crichton didn’t need to consult the NFL’s draft advisory board to decide what he should do.
His parents had endured enough over the years while providing for their family, and the defensive end decided it was time to give them some relief. So after his junior season at Oregon State, the 22-year-old took a leap of faith and declared early for the NFL draft.
“I was going to come back to college, but there were just a lot of things that were happening back home,” Crichton said. “Family is family and everybody says they love their family, but sometimes they don’t do anything about it, and you know I’m really close to my family. So I think this was the best opportunity for me, to earn some extra money and basically provide for them.”
Crichton has had a soft landing with the Vikings, who in May drafted him in the third round. Despite Crichton missing most of the spring workouts because of an NFL rule that kept him on campus, the Vikings envision him as an edge-rushing contributor in their defensive line rotation. He has a lot to catch up on to make that a reality as a rookie, but the Vikings know his heart is in the right place and that he will put the work in, for his family and for himself.
“I love the kid. He’s a yes-sir, no-sir kid, hard worker who goes to the whistle all the time,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “And it’s important to him. Those kinds of guys we like here.”
By watching his parents, Lucky and Malama, sacrifice for their family, Crichton, the youngest of four children, learned what it meant to persevere. The Crichtons moved to Washington from Western Samoa before Scott was born and struggled to make ends meet after they arrived.
Lucky was at times unemployed because he had lost his left leg back in Western Samoa. A cut had become infected, and without sufficient medical care, the infection spread, forcing doctors to amputate. He was unemployed for a while before finding work moving boxes with a forklift in a warehouse, but he got paid minimum wage at first and the long, uncomfortable days took a toll. He is now battling diabetes and a heart ailment.
Malama, meanwhile, would leave the house at 6:20 every morning for a nursing job at a retirement home. After that, she was off to another home to work a second eight-hour shift.
The family also cared for Crichton’s grandfather, Sila, who lived with them until he passed away in late February. Crichton was forced to miss his funeral to attend the NFL scouting combine.
But throughout the years the Crichtons endured it all to give their children a normal childhood that included family vacations, camping trips and organized sports.
“They’re just an example of hard work and dedication,” Crichton said. “We didn’t have much when I was growing up. We didn’t have a lot to work with. But I still enjoyed my childhood. I loved every minute of it, and I learned every step of the way. I can’t thank my parents enough for everything.”
Perhaps that is true, but what he has been able to do for them since the Vikings drafted him is a promising start.
After signing a four-year rookie contract worth a little more than $3 million, a deal that included a $656,000 signing bonus, Crichton told his father that he wouldn’t have to work ever again. His mother is now working only one nursing shift a day — and that is by her choice.
“She doesn’t want to retire because she’d be bored at home with my dad,” Crichton said with a chuckle.
Malama said she and Lucky would have supported their son either way, but they’re grateful he gave up his senior season for them.
“We told him, ‘We’re OK. You can wait another year.’ But he made up his mind,” Malama said. “It means a lot to us. It takes a lot of the burden off us. … It means more than anything.”
With his mind at ease having made his parents’ lives easier, Crichton can focus on football.
Defensive coordinator George Edwards said Crichton, having been allowed to practice with the Vikings only a few times before training camp, is working to “clean up the mental errors and the alignments and those kinds of things.” But Crichton is already listed as a second-stringer on the depth chart, and the coaches hope he can provide a spark as a situational player this season.
Crichton had 22 ½ sacks in his three years at Oregon State, including nine in 2012 and 7 ½ in 2013. He also forced 10 fumbles and totaled 51 tackles for a loss.
“I think I’m a perfect fit for this team,” Crichton said. “I’m happy the Vikings drafted me. We play old-fashioned football. Mike Zimmer, I love his scheme. I think I’ll be good for it.”