Algernon Crumpler, or better known in these parts as Alge, never knew the entire story behind his naming.
He knows it has something to do with the book “Flowers for Algernon” but said, “My parents put this list together of possible names, and they said if there was a name that were on each list, then they would go with it. Sure enough, Algernon was on both, but why couldn’t it have been James or something? I never really understood the whole story.’’
One thing, however, that was not misunderstood to NFL linebackers and cornerbacks was his determination on the field to be one of the best tight ends in the game when he played. In seven years with the Falcons, he caught 316 passes for 4,212 yards, eighth in all-time receiving yardage for the franchise and made four consecutive Pro Bowls (2003-06).
Born in Greenville, N.C., Crumpler played at two different high schools. The first was at Connally High in Greenville before moving to Wilmington, N.C., and playing two years at New Hanover High. He played on defense, moving between linebacker and defensive end and playing some at safety. He also was a great thrower on the track team, winning a state championship in the discus three times and once in the shot put.
During his recruiting for college, Crumpler became interested in North Carolina when he went to their camp and met coach Mack Brown. There, he was placed on a seven-on-seven team filled with high school stars, and they rolled through the camp tournament, leading to him signing with the Tar Heels in 1996. Showing good hands, he was moved to tight end and was All-ACC his last three seasons in Chapel Hill. He caught 23 passes for 287 yards and was named second-team All-America his senior year.
In the 2001 draft, when the Falcons took Michael Vick as No. 1 overall pick, Crumpler was taken in the second round (35th overall) and started in 12 of 16 games as a rookie and caught 25 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
But he was also becoming known as a very good blocking tight end and made his first Pro Bowl in 2003 when he caught 44 passes for 552 yards, the most for a Falcons tight end since Junior Miller went for 584 yards in 1980.
Through 2006, Vick and Crumpler became an explosive connection. Crumpler caught 48 passes when the team played in the NFC Championship game against the Eagles in the 2004 season. He followed that with 65 catches the next season and corralled 56 targets in ’06.
Vick went to jail in 2007, and while on a terrible team under coach Bobby Petrino, Crumpler still had another strong season with 42 receptions, 444 yards and five touchdowns. He turned some heads in a “Monday Night Football” game in December when he wore black eye strips with the letters “MV’’ on them. The NFL fined him, but Crumpler, unlike others, never abandoned Vick and visited him while he was in prison.
Before the 2008 season, Crumpler was released and played two years for the Tennessee Titans before finishing his career in New England in 2010. During that season, he was named team captain and coach Bill Belichick said, “He’s one of those guys that just seems like he always does the right thing no matter what the situation is.’’
Crumpler retired after that season, finishing with 373 catches in 10 seasons with 4,743 yards and 39 touchdowns.
He returned to Atlanta and could be heard as a sports’ talk-show host as well as a college television analyst.
Where he lives: Crumpler, 37, lives in Suwanee and has been married to his college sweetheart, Jennifer, for 13 years. They have three daughters: Kendal (11), Ava (8) and Campbell (6).
What he does now: He is retired, spending time with his kids and driving his 42-foot RV to every North Carolina football home game. He also never misses a Falcons home game.
On his biggest influence in high school: "It was the coach (Joe Miller) I played at during high school in Wilmington. When I got there, he called me in his office and we sat down and he looked at me and said. 'I don't want you messing up my team.' I remember in practice he would line up his best guys in front of me and I would kick their (expletive) every time.''
On moving to tight end in college: "I had always had pretty good hands. When I was being recruited by North Carolina and went to their camp, (coach) Mack Brown put me on this seven-on-seven team with all these good players. I played really well in the offensive drills, and it's funny that most of those kids on that team ended up going with me to North Carolina. It was a recruiting tactic I didn't know about then.''
On who helped him become a complete tight end in the NFL: It was (tight ends) Reggie Kelly and Brian Kozlowski. Dan Reeves was using me as an H-back, and in that offense the play-calling is implied. In every other offense, you have a numbering system or you know the route you are running. But in that offense the H-back had to fill in the blank on your own. Brian and Reggie really helped me with it as well as developing my game. It took a lot of studying.''
On playing with Vick: "He was the most recognizable player in Atlanta, like Dominique Wilkins and Hank Aaron. He was a rock star. But he never seemed that way in the locker room. It seemed that the locker room was his safe haven. On the field I would be running a route and turn and see Michael running. Those were fun times. It was the Michael Vick experience, and I really thought we had enough to get beyond the NFC Championship game in 2004.''
On his season in New England: "That is the most fun I have ever had. To have the chance to play with Tom Brady, I just wish I would have still had some tread on my tires. The way Tom prepares, manages the game and leads is incredible. I am still dumbfounded that he was a late draft pick. I loved playing for the Falcons, but I think I learned more in my 10th year more than I did in my first nine.''
On Falcons coach Dan Quinn: "I enjoy watching him make real-time adjustments and watching the team win when things are not perfect. He has figured out at the end of the day how to win games.''
On being a full-time father: "I enjoy it. I am able to go to all their sports and dance recitals. But I will have to say that at the Texans game I took my daughters and the two youngest read a book through the entire game. Well, except when people got up and did the Whip/Nae Nae dance. I am trying to give them all the experiences I can as long as I have the opportunity and that Arthur Blank money stays in my bank account.''
On whether he read "Flowers for Algernon": "I did … and I loved it.''