He is a football vagabond, willing to go just about anywhere for the chance to play. So far his talent, perseverance and passport have allowed him to build a career most could only dream about.
Since graduating from DeMatha in 1991, Dan Crowley has put up impressive numbers--in terms of both frequent-flier miles and quarterback statistics. His football travels led him first to Towson State, then Baltimore, Montreal, Italy and now Edmonton.
Although the 26-year-old former Bowie resident is riding the bench for the Eskimos (1-2 in the Canadian Football League) as their third-string quarterback and punter, he knows that the sport has given him the chance to travel the world to play football.
"It's been the greatest experience," he said. "I think it's the greatest thing I could have done."
According to his father, Dan, the younger Crowley's persistence was learned at a young age. Crowley was a good athlete growing up, playing in the boys club programs. But when he arrived at DeMatha, which has a traditionally strong football program, Crowley discovered there were several players as talented--or more talented--than he was. Still, as a sophomore, he felt he should have started for the varsity.
As a junior, Crowley earned the quarterback job. He went on to start his junior and senior years.
"He learned from that experience," Dan Crowley Sr. said. "You set your goals. Some you make. Some you don't."
Crowley earned All-Met honorable mention honors his senior year at DeMatha and was one of 15 players the school sent to Division I-A and I-AA colleges on scholarship.
"He would always do the little things necessary to help us win," DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor said. "He was always very committed, driven. . . . He wasn't a real big kid--he was only 6 feet, maybe 170 pounds when he was here--but he's always had an awful lot of heart.
"It's probably just a coincidence, but since Dan was here, my last three or four quarterbacks have been in that same mold--kind of small, undersized, but with strong arms and big hearts. Dan's arm was alive. It still is."
Towson State rode Crowley's arm to a 16-4 mark his final two seasons there. When he left in 1995, he was the school's all-time leading passer with 8,900 yards and the career leader with 81 touchdown passes.
Despite those impressive numbers, Crowley knew he was too small to attract the attention of NFL scouts. Still, he wasn't about to give up on pro football.
Fortunately for Crowley, the CFL's Baltimore franchise held practices at Towson's field.
The Stallions coach, Don Matthews, had noticed the Tigers' scrappy quarterback.
Baltimore signed Crowley in 1995, but he had to compete against four quarterbacks for one of two backup spots behind 10-year veteran Tracy Ham.
Crowley lasted one season in Baltimore before the franchise moved to Montreal. After spending his entire football career close to family and friends, Crowley left for Canada in 1996.
He stayed in Montreal for a season as a backup to Ham, but was cut by the Alouettes after their first game in 1997. Undeterred, Crowley called a friend who coached an Arena League team in Albany, N.Y., and asked for a tryout. But that league's season was just ending. Instead, he returned to the area and worked with his former college team.
After speaking with general managers around the CFL, Crowley was told he needed to gain more experience. But he needed a place to play in order to get it.
Then after the 1997 CFL season, Dan Maciocia, his former offensive coordinator in Montreal, called. Maciocia had just been named the coach of the Bergamo Lions, a semi-professional team in Italy, and wanted Crowley to be his quarterback. After weighing his options, Crowley decided to accept the offer. He had never been to Europe and spoke no Italian.
"I just wanted to get some [playing] experience," Crowley said. "That was the big thing. . . . The first couple of months were really difficult. But after meeting the guys and hanging out with the team, there are a lot of good people [in Italy]. The team really takes care of you."
Crowley, one of the few paid players on the team, was given a car, an apartment and a stipend of $2,000 a month. When he wasn't playing football, he traveled. He visited France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Spain.
Aside from the cultural experience of living in Italy, Crowley enjoyed a great deal of on-field success. In 1998, he was selected the league's offensive player of the year and most valuable player of the championship game. The Lions ranked first in total offense and won the league championship.
This past season--the Italian season runs from January to June--Crowley led Bergamo to an undefeated record and its second consecutive league championship. Once again, the Lions were atop the league in total offense, outscoring their opponents by 473-78. Crowley threw for 1,339 yards and 18 touchdowns with only one interception. He was first in the league in passing yards, completion percentage and quarterback rating.
Showing his versatility, Crowley also served as the team's punter. His longest punt was 55 yards.
"I got that winning feeling back again," Crowley said. "I started finding myself football-wise again. . . . I called my own plays. [Maciocia] really gave me free rein. It was good to get that feeling back, that starting quarterback sensation."
One week after leading his team to the league title, Crowley was eight time zones away at two-a-days with the Edmonton Eskimos. The opportunity he'd hoped for arrived.
Italy "was to get me back in [the CFL]," Crowley said. "It was almost like do or die."
Following his success in Italy, Crowley and his agent, former DeMatha teammate Christian Mester, called CFL general managers to try to arrange a tryout. Matthews, who had coached Crowley in Baltimore, had moved on to Edmonton. When he heard that Crowley was interested in returning to the league, he invited him to compete for the starting job. Crowley signed a contract with a base salary of $40,000.
"I've watched Dan develop as a pro quarterback since he left Towson," Matthews said. "He prepares well and he's always ready to play. He's shown our coaching staff much more than we expected."
Although he started the Eskimos' first two preseason games, Crowley was demoted to third string behind former Clemson standout Nealon Greene and former East Carolina star Marcus Crandell. But he is not discouraged. Crowley said when he had been cut by Montreal he thought briefly of leaving football, but no longer.
"I'm in a very good situation," he said. "I'm not worried. I'm not going to put a time restraint on [my football career]. I'll know when it's time to stop. Right now, I've been given a pretty good opportunity."
Dan Crowley's Football Odyssey
From DeMatha to Europe to Canada, quarterback finds his way into a huddle.
Crowley lived with parents here.
He went to DeMatha High School.
3. TOWSON STATE
He attended college here.
He played for the CFL Stallions.
He played for the Alouettes.
6. BERGAMO, ITALY
He played here for two years.
He's landed here.