ST. PETERSBURG — When Terrell Crosby was 10, he came home every day from school, placed an agility ladder on the ground and started stepping through it — faster, faster, faster.
Back and forth, over and over.
“My momma didn’t have to tell me to do it, my coach didn’t tell me to do it, nobody told me to do it,” said Crosby, who was given his first used ladder from an uncle. “I did it on my own. I did it every day for hours. I ran the ladder into the night. Then I ran it every day after that.”
When the 18-year-old Lakewood cornerback/receiver was asked Tuesday what compelled him, he answered matter-of-factly, as if there was never a doubt about it: “I want to be great. I want to be great to help my family get out of this tough predicament we’re in. I want to improve our situation.”
Friends from his youth football team like Lakewood senior right guard Isaiah Cooper watched Crosby in fascination, wondering what kept him from getting bored with his workouts.
“You ask Terrell, ‘What are you doin’?’” Cooper said. “He says, ‘I’m goin’ to work. I’m workin’ out. I’m running the ladder.’ You call him another day, ‘Terrell what are you doin?’ He says, ‘I’m workin’ out.’
“You look out on the field and Terrell will be out there by himself, running and cutting. I think, man, he’s always working.”
Now Cooper watches Crosby’s performance in games and thinks about what he’s learned while watching him work: “To be great, sometimes you have to be bored. When you think about it, the guys who are great do a lot of boring work. They do it over and over and over again. Just like Terrell on the ladder.”
Through the first four games this season, Crosby has been, in a word, spectacular. In the third game against Gibbs, in fact, he did something that very few players have ever done, intercepting four passes in a single game.
Cory Moore, in his 15th season as Lakewood’s head coach and in his 30th-plus year in the game, said he not only has never seen anybody intercept four passes in a game, he’s never even heard of it.
Here’s the kicker: Crosby was always known as a receiver before he started the game against Gibbs at cornerback. He volunteered to play the position after a few Spartans went down with injuries.
“I told Coach I can step right in at cornerback,” said Crosby, 5-feet-10, 175 pounds. “I knew cornerback would feel natural to me. And it was.”
Was it ever.
In the first quarter, Crosby intercepted two passes, one on a hitch route and another on a post. In the third quarter, he got another pick on a curl. In the fourth quarter, he snatched another pass on a post. He returned one of the interceptions 40 yards for a touchdown.
On the first play of the next game against Delray Beach Atlantic, Crosby stepped in front of a pass in the flat and ran 30 yards for a touchdown. Later in the game, he returned another interception 40 yards for a score.
Moore says it comes down to natural instinct.
“Some things you can’t teach, some things you just have, and Crosby most certainly has it,” Moore said. “His feet are so quick and smooth, it’s phenomenal.”
While plenty speedy, Crosby, who also leads Lakewood with 21 receptions for 264 yards and two touchdowns, admits he isn’t necessarily the fastest in a straight foot race. But when it comes to quick cuts, quick bursts and turns, he says he can hold his own with anybody.
“My footwork is crazy,” said Crosby, who verbally committed to Toledo but is getting more interest from big colleges after collecting the six picks in the last two games. “My footwork is unbelievable. You should see it.”
Ultimately, he believes his future could be at cornerback because it feels so natural to him.
“I am also a receiver, so I know what a receiver thinks,” Crosby says. “I know what route they are going to run. I feel like I know before the receiver knows.”
At the moment, Lakewood is the beneficiary, apparent in the Spartans’ 4-0 record entering Friday’s game against Lakeland Kathleen (1-3).
“I’m always ready,” said Crosby, who is now on his third ladder after breaking the first two from stepping on them so many times. “Whatever it takes, I’m ready. I’ve been preparing for every play for years. I’m ready.”