I played organized football -- with pads -- at age 5. I was supposed to play flag, but I played with the 7-year-olds instead. That's Texas for you. I had brothers who were five and six years older than me, so that made it easier for me to play up. I remember one time, when I was 10, my dad made me play with my own age group in football. I started crying because he made me play with little kids. It was a traumatic moment.
I grew up playing against so much competition -- Mike Thomas [Lions], DeMarcus Love [Vikings] and Darrell Arthur [Grizzlies] were some of my right-hand guys -- and that helped me get better. My little league football team traveled from Dallas to Louisiana and Mississippi. To pay for the trips, we held car washes, and some local business always threw in some cash. I played with raggedy cleats that I taped up to look nice. I could make a dollar look like $20.
The middle school days
Up until high school, my sports were football, basketball, baseball and track. I wasn't the kind of guy who wanted to give anything up. I started playing AAU basketball around 7, but it really picked up when I was 12. We'd travel all over the country and stay in four- or five-star hotels in New York and Vegas. Coming from a rough neighborhood, that was a blessing.
I never went to camps or anything; my offseason training was just playing other sports. Most of my friends were doing the same thing as me, so I never felt like I missed out on anything. When I was 11, I played football for the Desoto Tigers, and Coach Brown just let me run the team. I called the plays and everything. I really built a lot of confidence through that.
The high school years
Since I wanted to play basketball and football in college, I focused exclusively on those sports in high school [at David W. Carter High in Dallas]. I started to get recruited for basketball in 10th grade, when I was 15. [Then-Texas Tech coach] Bobby Knight gave me my first offer. I'll never forget, I dunked on somebody in a game and started talking noise. I hear somebody yell, "Crabtree, shut your mouth and play ball." It was Bobby Knight.
I was a quarterback and cornerback at Carter. I started getting letters in ninth grade for football just because of the school I went to. Carter was undefeated in football pretty much the whole time I was there. But I actually almost quit football sophomore year. I didn't really like my coach's philosophy. He played the older guys because he wanted to get them looks for scholarships, even though some of us younger players were better. But I stuck with it, and I ended up with 10 or 15 offers for basketball and football.