For Ex-Redskin Crews, TV Success Tastes Sweet

By Dennis Tuttle
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, January 1, 2006

As Terry Crews navigates through Hollywood traffic with a cell phone in one ear and his struggles to stardom still buzzing in the other, the accidental actor keeps his focus on the road ahead without reflecting on his discouraging days as an office clerk, floor-sweeper, security guard, jilted artist and journeyman pro-football player.

"I look at my wife almost every day and say, 'Can you believe this?'" said the former Washington Redskin and one of the stars of Chris Rock's hit UPN comedy "Everybody Hates Chris."

The show portrays the Brooklyn upbringing of a 13-year-old Chris (played by Tyler James Williams), the oldest of three children, who lives in a tough neighborhood in the early 1980s.

As the second half of the show's freshman season opens this month, Crews, who plays burly, hard-working father Julius, also begins a new year in which he has become a highly in-demand talent and a sudden success story.

"I've done a lot of crap in my career [to make ends meet], just like a lot of people have," he said, "and all those experiences taught me to continue moving on."

Acting was never in the plan for Crews, who played for several NFL teams from 1991-1997. He had aimed for work in storyboarding and special effects, with an eye toward directing. But he had to take various jobs -- just like his TV character -- to sustain his family.

"I was never a superstar player. I never made a lot of money. I had enough savings for the first six months out here before it was gone and done," said the father of four daughters and a son. "I had to do various odd jobs. It was bad, man. My wife asked how long we were going to give this before deciding it wasn't going to work out. I said, 'We are never leaving. If I'm 90 years old and it hits, it will be worth it.'"

Crews, who attended Interlochen Arts Academy and Western Michigan University, played for the Redskins in 1995 and produced a children's book with one of his best friends, fellow linebacker Ken Harvey. Crews and Harvey seldom go more than a few days without talking. On several occasions in those dark times in Los Angeles Harvey would ask, "'Are you okay? . . . Want me to send you a little something in the mail?'" Crews said.

"You get to know certain people, and you hope to do right by them," Harvey said. "Terry is one of those guys that, if he borrowed from you, he called the next day and said, 'Thanks.' I am the ultimate believer in people, and if anybody could do this, I believed in him."

Crews once was sweeping floors at a factory when an onlooker said, "You don't look like you belong here. You look like somebody."

"That's when your soul is purified," Crews said.

But an enormous, unexpected break was forthcoming. At 6-foot-3 and 245 well-sculpted pounds, Crews landed a job as a security guard on the set of Arnold Schwarzenegger's "End of Days." Famed makeup artist Jeff Dawn mistook Crews for an actor.

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