When a younger Jamison Crowder would walk the halls of Monroe High School, he'd look up at a few of the NFL jerseys hanging near the gymnasium lobby, threaded artifacts from alumni -- notably running back Richard Huntley -- that had graduated to greater levels of football.
"When I saw it, it was like motivation to one day have my jersey up there," Crowder said.
Not yet into his third season with the Redskins, that's already a reality for Crowder, whose signed burgundy 80 jersey now sits proudly beside those he once admired on Monroe's Football Wall of Fame.
"It means a lot," Crowder said. "Now that my jersey is up there it's cool, it can motivate others…help inspire them to help reach this level or the highest level of whatever they want to get into."
Crowder is one of two other recent Monroe grads that have made their way into higher levels of football – Quay Chambers, a redshirt senior at Duke and Issac Blakeney, another Duke product who has bounced around a couple of NFL teams including the Redskins.
Together, they have helped fertilize a football program in Monroe, headed by Johnny Sowell, an administrator there for more than 30 years, and have inspired other young players to take notice of their older peers.
"Those are guys that are from my community, from the same town, knew all the same people," Crowder said. "It helped inspire the younger kids to actually know us and have seen us in the community and came to the games when we were in high school."
It is not uncommon for players to remain in touch with their hometowns and high schools, but it is rare for them to have such a deep connection with the community. Crowder has fostered this since he left Monroe, N.C., especially over the last two years, attending a camp for the past two years at his high school that one of the team's coaches has put on each June.
"It's a good thing for the kids there to see guys like myself going to schools like Duke and making it to the NFL because it helps inspire them and give them some motivation because a lot of kids there aren't as fortunate as I was to have both parents in the household," Crowder said. "A lot of my friends grew up in single parent households. For me to go there and my family to be from that area, I know a lot of people there, they respect me and I just want to be motivational for them and their kids and even my peers that I went to school with. A lot of them still look up to me now as motivation for whatever they're doing."
Crowder's commitment comes from a maturity few have so early in their careers. It's been noticeable in his two years with the Redskins and been even more impactful in Monroe. Sowell has played a part in cultivating that from both his basketball and football players, sports Crowder both played.
"He had a huge impact on my life and a lot of guys' lives, my teammates , guys before me," Crowder said. "Everybody knows coach Sowell, he's one of those guys that's always giving his all to help the community and the students that he's involved with, helping them to become better men as well as better players."
The only umbrage Sowell and his coaching staff receive from Crowder now is directed towards their Cowboys fandom, which has been tested since one of their star players was drafted by Washington.
"They always say they root for me, they want to see me do good, but want to see Dallas beat us," Crowder said. "Hopefully this year we can beat them so I can talk all that junk."