In all habitats, Crews’ yields just come natural

Alisha Jucevic/The Herald
Heritage Hills senior Kenton Crews, left, has developed the reputation as one of the most dangerous players on a football field. He’s amassed 38 touchdowns since the start of last season and looks to guide the Patriots to their second striaght Class 3A sectional title starting with their tournament opener at 7 CDT Friday night at Charlestown.


Kenton Crews is Super Buffalo Man.

Sometimes he sleeps in the woods, in a makeshift lean-to fashioned from brush which serves as shelter, eating the pigeon he shot with the three bullets he brought for his gun from his family’s house about a mile away on what used to be called Old Buffaloville Road. He woke up one morning last winter to find his primitive abode covered in 4 inches of snow that had fallen the previous night as he kept living life as Lincoln City’s wild man.

“People think I’m crazy,” Crews says. “But it is fun.”

Crews chases off skunks with a torch. He once devised an impromptu cooking pan out of a Pepsi can, rustled up some dove eggs and cooked ’em over a fire. Sometimes supper means minnows from the creek. Another time, all Crews’ scant amount of ammunition yielded was a spatzie — “ya know, those tiny little birds you see outside of McDonald’s eating everything?” Crews explains. “It was the worst thing ever.”

But what is this Super Buffalo Man, you ask? The pseudonym taken on as an 8-year-old is where Crews’ worlds intertwine.

There’s the buffalo in him. The adolescent who started working at his family’s Buffalo Run restaurant and farm as “just a little 6-year-old kid,” he recalls, “and I’d throw a tomahawk. That was my job. ... I would just throw ’em and dress up like an Indian and have a little coonskin cap and I was a little kid showing people how to stick a tomahawk. … So for fun, Dad and I used to do that sometimes. We used to have competitions. I could stick it left-handed, I could stick it upside-down, underhanded. I don’t think I could do that anymore though.”

What Crews (or “Runs with Buffaloes,” Kenton’s pseudo-Native American name at Buffalo Run) can’t do anymore is replaced by what Superman can. Superman is the persona he associated with his father, Michael, when Kenton was a young child, before he started using the character himself. He’s worn football gloves with the ornate “S” rendered on the palms since his junior season on Heritage Hills’ football team and since then, what Crews has done for the Patriots has been super to say the least.

“Gameplanning as a coach, you understand that you’ve got a weapon here that not too many people can deal with,” Heritage Hills coach Todd Wilkerson says of Crews, the running back/wide receiver/defensive back/special teams hybrid. “You feel like any time he touches the ball, it may be a game-breaker.”

Tomahawk. Touchdown.

“He’s dangerous,” Wilkerson says, referencing more the latter scoring ability.

Considering the 38 touchdowns he’s stockpiled in the last two seasons (and 47 in his career as a four-year varsity player), it’s hard — like tackling the 5-foot-11, 170-pound lightning bolt — to argue otherwise. They’ve come via a range of styles, but with one collective thread.

“You give him a little bit of room and he’s gone,” Jasper safety Cal Krueger says. “He did that against us.”

Crews struck twice against Jasper in September, netting a pair of touchdowns with Magellanic treks across the field both times. But the Wildcats weren’t Crews’ first victim and certainly not his last.

Most notably, there was the four-touchdown tour de force last October against Southridge, served in Crews’ signature quartet of scoring manners — one rushing, one receiving, one off a punt return and another from one of Crews’ 10 career interceptions — reinforcing Wilkerson’s view that “that’s just the kind of kid he is,” the coach says. “He cranks it up another notch in the game.”

There’s the lethal speed. Crews has been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and Krueger recalls his travel baseball teammate blazing through 60 yards in 6.4 seconds at a showcase in Indianapolis this past summer.

“That’s crazy speed,” Krueger says.

Yet while Crews’ ascension to varsity came comparatively quick, earning a spot at safety as a 125-pound freshman, speed bumps have proven unavoidable.

He broke his thumb in the first half of the Pats’ sectional opener his freshman year. Crews kept playing. Sophomore year, he suffered a concussion and sat out games against Gibson Southern and Southridge which, perhaps as no coincidence, coincided with the start of Heritage Hills’ five-game losing streak.

Resilience sprinkled with stubbornness, however, has been Crews’ typical rebuttal.

Following a three-week absence last season because of mono, Crews returned against North Posey, a game earlier than expected. After throwing up throughout the contest, he went back to the hospital. A week later, he ignited: three TDs against Gibson Southern followed by the four versus Southridge. And when Crews suffered a Grade 3 separated right shoulder on the final drive of Heritage Hills’ semistate loss to eventual Class 3A state champion Tri-West, he re-entered the game and caught a pass before missing the first eight weeks of basketball. The bone still protrudes noticeably, and always will.

Crews shrugs it off. It’s the habitual approach for the always-gleaming guy whose identity is as multi-layered as the roof on his wooded dwellings. He’s the son of Kathleen (Beumel), the Apollo High School legend who hoarded 10 Kentucky state championships in track and cross country before a cheerleading accident at the University of Hawaii left the then-20-year-old temporarily paralyzed. Doctors said she’d never walk again but “she overcame what the doctors said,” Kenton says. “Prayed for a miracle and got it.”

He’s the son of Michael, the former Heritage Hills standout and Ball State football player who “was just like Kenton,” Wilkerson says of his high school teammate from the late ’80s. “He is just a good down-to-earth guy with outstanding athletic ability.”

Down-to-earth; one with the earth; it all seems natural with Kenton, “a guy that goes camping in the woods just for fun,” Krueger says of Crews, who went without television at home for (gasp) nine years before the family invested in a four-channel device last year. “He’s definitely one of a kind.”

He jokes about his speed — “It runs in the family. Runs in the family!” Kenton says, emphasizing the pun — having a sister, Sienna, who competes for University of Evansville’s cross country team, and a cousin in former Heritage Hills stud and ’03 grad Cole Seifrig, who was recruited to play football at Purdue. And Crews spells out what’s made the speed more wicked: the offseason weightlifting that amounted to 15 pounds of added muscle entering his senior season, mainly to his legs, he says. Eventually, Crews got to squatting 340 pounds and power-cleaning 250 — the most of anyone on the team. The pounds have spawned durability, which Wilkerson feels has become one of Crews’ biggest assets this season, as he’s played every game with more sizeable workloads (20 to 25 touches in some games).

“I’ve still got really skinny legs, but they’re starting to look like football-player legs,” he says.

Above the talent, though, stands the coachability and charisma, Wilkerson says. It extends to teammates and even to the opposition. Luke Stetter (2015 Southridge graduate), Forest Park quarterback Ben Wendholt and Krueger, among others, “I like all those guys,” Crews says.

Amicability. It may be Super Buffalo Man’s greatest attribute.

“It’s always good to have friends,” Crews surmises. “When you’re talking about football someday to your kids and you’re like, ‘Man, that guy was a jerk.’ Why would you want somebody to remember you like that? You just try to be as nice as you can and maybe someone will be like, ‘Yeah, that guy was pretty nice.’”

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