Kaiden Crawford has put together an amazing football career in a very short period of time. Crawford played just one season of scholastic football at Simon Gratz High. Now, he’s an all-conference player at Delaware State University.

The 6-foot-5, 310-pound senior, plays offensive tackle for the Hornets. He was recently named to the preseason first team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Crawford often thinks about how quickly he’s developed into a great player over the last four years. He also reflects on how his football career got started.

“I didn’t play until my 12th grade year,” Crawford said. “Believe it or not, I live right down the street from Gratz. [Simon Gratz head coach] Coach Erik Zipay seen my size. He came knocking at my door every day until I came out. One day I was like I’m going to see where this football thing goes. It just worked. I was having fun.”

Zipay saw a lot of potential in him. He thought Crawford could play college football.

“I said, ‘Let’s go! You’re going to play college football,’” Zipay said. “He said to drive by his house and grab him. He’s intelligent. He’s athletic. He was a kid that was in between as a basketball kid. I’m like yo if a college coach sees you or gets some film of you, you’re going to play college football because you’re going to get a scholarship.”

In 2015, Crawford helped the Bulldogs post an 12-4 overall record and a 8-0 conference mark in the Public League. He played defensive end and left tackle for Gratz. He had some Division I interest from Morgan State, Maine and Rhode Island, but Delaware State offered him a scholarship first.

“I would have never expected that coming out of high school,” Crawford said. “Kenny Carter [former Delaware State head coach] came to me with an opportunity. I have a good relationship with Coach [Rod] Milstead [Delaware State head coach]. I like playing for him. He’s a good person. He keeps telling me I can be better than what he was at Delaware State.”

That’s saying a lot. Milstead is one of Delaware State’s greatest players. Milstead was a terrific offensive lineman for the Hornets. He was an All-MEAC first team honoree and a 1991 Associated Press, Walter Camp and Sheridan Black College All-America first team selection. In 1992, he was a fifth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns. He played eight seasons in the NFL. Milstead also played with former Delaware State standout John Taylor on the San Francisco 49ers’ 1995 Super Bowl championship team.

If Crawford can continue to develop, he could be playing in the NFL next season. He has really developed his pass and run blocking skills over the last three years.

“Playing right tackle is like you’re on a island by yourself,” Crawford said. “It’s just you and the d-end [defensive end]. It’s you and the defensive end the majority of the game.”

Delaware State will open the season against the University of Delaware on Thursday, Aug. 29 in Newark, Delaware. at 7 p.m. Delaware State will host Lincoln University on Saturday, Sept. 14 at Alumni Stadium in Dover, Delaware. (4 p.m.).

“Every home game my family and friends run at the chance that we have a home game,” Crawford said. “This season we got seven of them.”

Crawford will certainly be a player to watch this season.

dhunt@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5719

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