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Evergreen’s Fox Crader found football, turned it into scholarship with Oregon Ducks

Senior lineman’s off-season included visits to Big 12, SEC schools

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer
Published: September 1, 2023, 6:05am
3 Photos
Evergreen senior Fox Crader poses for a portrait on Tuesday, July 18, 2023 at Evergreen High School.
Evergreen senior Fox Crader poses for a portrait on Tuesday, July 18, 2023 at Evergreen High School. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Sitting at Evergreen High School’s turf football field in late July, watching a 7-on-7 event and 5-on-5 linemen drills simultaneously, four-star national football recruit Caedmon “Fox” Crader contemplated the series of questions just asked.

Where would the 6-foot-6, 290-pound offensive tackle be if he hadn’t given football a serious thought entering high school? If his late love for football never happened? Or if his head coach didn’t give uplifting words to a teenager on how his future could be major college football?

Crader, Evergreen’s star left tackle bound for the Oregon Ducks next fall, paused before answering.

“Well,” Crader said, “to be honest with you, I don’t think I’d be in the same position at all.”

Crader shared how it took time for his mindset to change about playing a position of importance.

“Eventually, you fall in love with it,” he said. “It took a lot of perseverance because I had to push myself to do something that I didn’t necessarily want to do (at first).”

Crader became a must-have recruit in football almost overnight, and arguably, has turned into Clark County’s most sought-after offensive lineman since former USA Today and Parade All-American Travis Claridge starred at Fort Vancouver in the mid-1990s.

Days after a social media video of Crader’s two-hand basketball dunk, Oregon offered Crader a football scholarship.

Earlier this year, other powerhouse Big 12 and SEC programs like Texas, Oklahoma, LSU and two-time defending national champion Georgia jumped on the Crader sweepstakes.

Friday kicks off the 2023 high school football season across Washington. Crader remains firm on his commitment to the Ducks after a whirlwind several months of phone calls, campus visits and other all-things recruiting.

And he knows all of this wouldn’t be possible without those who believed Crader’s future was in college football. That includes himself, which is just part of Crader’s journey getting to this point as a national name on the college football recruiting scene.

“It’s been nothing less than amazing,” Crader said. “I’m very blessed.”

Development and getting noticed

Crader’s background in football is relatively short, but his size isn’t.

By the time he reached middle school, Crader stood 6 feet. When he turned out for organized football as a Cascade Middle School eighth grader, he admitted he primarily used it as a weight-loss tool for basketball.

“I was pretty lazy and out of shape,” Crader admitted. “I didn’t know how to play football and (the coaches) just put me on the line because I was big and I could block people. I didn’t have good form or anything.

“I didn’t even think about playing high school football because I thought I was a hooper.”

Crader’s first year playing football also was Christian Swain’s first season at Evergreen, inheriting a program that last had a winning season in 2008.

Swain saw Crader’s future.

“I might not ever get a kid like that again in my coaching career,” Swain said. “I knew from the first time when I saw him move around, he was going to be a tackle, and it took me about six months to convince him of that. But once he bought in, he just followed exactly the script that we’ve laid out for him, and it worked out for him really well.”

And very well, in a hurry. Over the past year, countless Pac-12, Big-12 and SEC programs got on Crader’s radar. That included the Ducks offering Crader a scholarship five days after a 3-second video got posted to social media of Crader performing a two-hand dunk before a summer league basketball game last June.

As important as being a multi-sport high school athlete is, Crader said he wanted to showcase he’s more than a football player and that a 6-6, size-15-shoe offensive tackle has athleticism.

“They’re always looking for things that stand out,” he said, “and you don’t see too many big dudes dunking with two hands. So that’s what I worked at.”

Crader verbally committed to Oregon in November 2022 — five months after extending a scholarship to Crader.

His list about what excites him about the program isn’t short: the relationships built with the coaching staff, the Ducks’ Class of 2024 recruiting class, its proximity to Vancouver, plus the school’s recent move to the Big Ten Conference starting in 2024.

Even when then-offensive line coach Adrian Klemm left for the NFL’s New England Patriots and other programs came calling, Crader’s commitment never wavered.

In April, Crader went on a Big 12 and SEC tour of schools to ensure Oregon was still the right place for him. What separated the Ducks, he said, came down to being more than football.

“I noticed a lot of (coaching) staffs (at other programs) are too much into football rather than developing the young men into more of a respectable man,” Crader said. “Oregon holds a lot of value in their player development and the aspect of football, but also just life in general. That was one of the biggest things for me.

“I wanted to make sure that staying (with Oregon) was the right decision. … I learned a lot from those experiences.”

High hopes at Evergreen

Crader’s rise as a football recruit isn’t surprising to Swain, Evergreen’s fifth-year coach. He points to one attribute that’s helped the teen get to where he is.

“The biggest thing is he listens,” the coach said. “He’s really taken the things that he’s been told and taken them to heart.”

In 16 years as a head coach at three high school programs, Swain has never had two Division I-bound players in the same class … until now. And it just so happens Crader and tight end Arthur Ban, committed to San Diego State, are more than teammates. Football helped blossom a strong friendship.

“That’s my best friend,” Ban said, “and he’ll tell you the same thing. … With us progressing in football, we’ve been able to really motivate each other.”

Crader has taken multiple trips to Eugene, Ore., over the past 12 months, and said it was equally important to have Ban along for the recruiting ride. They attended two Oregon football games together last fall and Crader is the first to tell anyone what a big-time player Ban has become.

“I believe in Arthur probably more than a lot of people,” Crader said. “I think he’s highly underrated. San Diego State believes in him more than anyone else, and that’s what matters.”

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Crader and Ban are two of the reasons why Evergreen has high hopes for a big 2023 season. The program last won a league title in 2007, and Swain said this year’s squad has the most depth across multiple position groups in his Evergreen tenure. The Plainsmen open the season at 4A Eisenhower (Yakima) at 7 p.m. Friday.

What’s left for Crader to accomplish? It’s a question he ponders often, and adamantly believes there’s more to unlock.

“One of the things I’ve realized more and more as the season comes along is I need to be a leader,” Crader said, “and I need to show the younger kids how to be respectful and how to play hard.”