Few Arlington-area prep school athletic stars have been the overpowering Northern Region forces in two sports that recent Yorktown High graduate John Crone (Class of 2004) was.
On the gridiron, Crone, at 5-foot-11, 215-pounds, was a bruising, nose-for-the-end-zone fullback who, as a senior in 2003, teamed up with 5-9, 200-pounder Duane Tigney to give the Patriots one of the most potent ground attacks in region history. Both Patriot standouts ran for over 1,000 yards and combined for 50 rushing TD's in '03 to lead Yorktown to the Div. 5 region title game where it lost to Madison. Crone, in postseason honors, earned First-Team All-Region accolades at running back.
Following a regular season 13-6 Yorktown win at National District rival Mount Vernon, in which Crone ran for 159 yards and a score, then-Majors head coach Jody Stone said, "I think the heart and soul of the team is Crone."
Crone, a force carrying the football as a 12th grader, might have been an even bigger game-changer as a linebacker, where he earned Div. 5 Defensive Player of the Year recognition.
And as a baseball player, Crone evolved into the region's best home run hitter over his final two seasons in 2003 and 2004 — spring season campaigns which saw the Patriots, under head coach Mike Allen, advance all the way to the region's semifinals.
"He has an [athletic] fluency and it's innate — in baseball with his hands and hips as in football," said Tyrone Byrd, current assistant principal at Washington-Lee High School who was Yorktown High's defensive football coordinator during Crone's sophomore and junior seasons.
CRONE SAID he was devastated when the Patriots' 2004 football season ended with the season-concluding home loss to Madison, 20-0, at the Div. 5 region finals. Yorktown, in its prior 11 games, had scored over 400 points. But the Warhawks were able to effectively hold down the Patriots' high-powered running attack as Tigney rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries and Crone 58 yards on 14 tries.
"[The game] that stands out to me is that loss to Madison as opposed to how many yards I gained [on the season]," said Crone, whose Patriots finished that 2003 season 10-2. "It was the worst feeling I've ever had. It was awful. What I remember most is how many people [Madison's defense] had in the box to stop the run every time I touched the ball or Duane." High emotion and a disdain for defeat has always been part of Crone's athletic makeup.
Currently, Crone brings that mindset to the University of Richmond where he is a member of both the Spiders' football and baseball teams.
"He cannot stand to lose at anything he does, whether we're playing Madden Football in our house [or anything else]," said Byrd, whose family is especially close to Crone. "He doesn't want to lose so he works on [his game]. He is so intense."
One of Crone's great high school memories is the success his senior class had in both football under coach Bruce Hanson and baseball under coach Allen.
"Coach Hanson said he'd never seen a class with all the athletes we had," said Crone. "It was great both [the football and baseball teams] went so far. But I still wasn't satisfied."
Crone's No. 1 sport in high school was football, but when he started achieving big things for the Patriots' baseball team his junior season, he realized he might have a future in that game as well.
"Everyone was talking to me like I should take it serious," he said.
He became a prolific power hitter who could turn on a fastball or a hanging curve and send baseballs on majestic flights well over outfield fences. With a strong line-up around the heart-of-the-order slugger, the Patriots were a region baseball force. His senior season, Crone hit .511 with 42 RBIs (school record) and seven homers to earn First Team All-Region and First Team All-Met honors. His slugging percentage was over 1,000, a school record.
He was not chosen in the June 2004 Major League Baseball Draft because he had already committed to attend Richmond on a full ride scholarship to play football. The White Sox, in particular, had been interested, but backed off upon Crone's decision to attend college. The Orioles, Mets, and Braves also had inquired about Crone.
"If he didn't have that football scholarship [at Richmond], he would have been drafted," said Yorktown baseball coach Mike Allen in the June 16, 2004 edition of the Arlington Connection.
Of Crone's baseball gifts, Allen said in that article, "He has a quick bat and incredible strength. Sammy Sosa is not as strong as John Crone. He has a lot of raw [baseball talent.]"
At Yorktown, Crone, on top of being an incredible talent, was a team leader.
"He was a natural born leader," said Hanson. "You couldn't ask for a better leader than him. He just led by example and whenever Crone spoke, everybody listened. He was a force. Everybody respected him. He's probably the best leader I've ever had."
Hanson credits Crone with holding the team together his junior season when the Patriots started the fall 1-4. That was the autumn of `The Sniper' spree, which caused havoc across the country and, at the local sports level, resulted in the postponement and change of locations of Northern Region fall sporting events. The Patriots fought back to finish 5-5 that season.
"We won our last four," recalled Hanson. "I think a lot of the reasons we stayed together was Crone."
Crone is grateful for the great coaches and teammates he had at Yorktown.
"The coaches and the guys that played around me, they did whatever they could to help me," he said.
AS A REDSHIRT sophomore football player at Richmond last fall, Crone was utilized in the Spiders' backfield as a blocking fullback. For Crone, who was redshirted his freshmen season in 2004 as a result of an injury, the role of being a lead blocker was challenging and fun — but also a change.
"I was used to in high school carrying the ball 25 times a game," said Crone. "But if we're winning, I could care less what my personal stats are."
Richmond, a member of the Atlantic 10, won big last season, finishing with an 11-3 overall record, winning its conference title, and reaching the NCAA Div. AA quarterfinals where it lost to Furman. Richmond was led by senior QB Stacy Putt, an awesome gridiron talent who will be competing for a spot on the Jets' roster this fall.
"He's one of those guys I saw a lot of myself in," said Crone, of Putt. "He never liked second place."
Crone is likely to be one of Richmond's feature ball carriers this upcoming season.
"I think we've worked more [in the spring season] on John being more of a feature part of the offense," said Richmond offensive coordinator/running backs coach Wayne Lineburg. "He's got very good ball skills. He's a very smart kid and he rushes the ball well. He did a great job blocking last year."
One of Crones' best athletic attributes is his strength — key reasons for his home run power in baseball and his ability to open up holes in football.
"John's the strongest kid on the team," said Lineburg. "He has great leverage and body control. Everything you'd want in a fullback he has. He can run and catch the ball. If he keeps working, he could be one of the best blockers in the league. He's a great kid and a joy to coach. He does everything you could ask."
On Richmond's baseball team last spring, Crone played a backup outfield position.
A business/criminal justice major, Crone said the academic life at Richmond is challenging. But that's what he likes.
"It challenges me and it's a tough school," he said.
Crone will always be looked upon as one of the great high school student athletes to come out of Arlington.
"John's leadership in the athletic program went well beyond his [accomplishments] on the field," said Yorktown Athletic Director Mike Krulfeld. "He truly inspired some other athletes here to reach their fullest potential because of his work ethic and overall positive contributions on and off the field. He was one of those athletes who not only tried to be successful on the field, but off the field by making good decisions. He was a great student and positive influence on the whole school community."
John Crone is 81 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.