Former Gar-Field football coach Jim Poythress can understand why visiting college coaches immediately fell for Kevin Crawford when they watched film of the 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior defensive lineman.

Poythress had the same reaction even before Crawford stepped on the field.

Crawford, who this week unofficially committed to the University of Virginia, moved to the area from Brooklyn, N.Y., when he was a sophomore. It was after football season, but Poythress and others soon noticed the transfer in the hallways.

"He stood out -- he was a whole head taller than everyone else," Poythress recalled. "Word spread quickly, 'Hey, did you see this new kid?' He was such a physically impressive kid, and right away you knew he had the potential to be an awesome football player."

At the time, Crawford considered himself more of a basketball player. Last season marked his first organized football experience; he was named to the all-Cardinal District second team on both offense and defense.

When he first reported to the weight room last year, Crawford bench-pressed a slight 155 pounds. He was up to 280 during the season and now is in the 300s for new coach Joe Mangano. Mangano said Crawford runs the 40-yard dash in about 4.85 seconds and has a 30-inch vertical leap.

Poythress would drop Crawford's name when coaches came through to recruit senior lineman Clint Sintim, who committed to Virginia in February.

"A lot of people saw him before he'd even played a down and knew who he was," Poythress said. "He had all the physical qualities they look for -- height, weight . . . and he doesn't have a piece of fat on him. Obviously, the learning curve was pretty steep at first. He might use poor technique or get tired. When he concentrated and did what he was taught to do, he was basically unstoppable.

"Kevin has all the tangibles and intangibles to be a star at the next level, and he has the work ethic to go with it. The upside is unbelievable."

Crawford, impressed by how hard Virginia recruited him, is the latest in a recent line of area standouts to commit to the Cavaliers, joining soon-to-be graduates Sintim and Zak Stair (Osbourn Park). Ahmad Brooks (Hylton) and Keenan Carter (Potomac) already are in Charlottesville. Another Gar-Field senior, Greg Tekampe, will be an invited walk-on, and 2003 Woodbridge graduate James Terry also committed there before going to prep school.

"I always knew I had ability to play football, but I was always a basketball person," said Crawford, who also had offers from Syracuse and Kent State and budding interest from other schools. "I grew up on basketball in New York. . . . I just played football just to try it out.

"Last season was me just learning how to play the game. . . . I haven't even tapped into my potential yet."