CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Western Carolina defensive back Keion Crossen was selected Saturday by the New England Patriots in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Crossen, who impressed the Patriots during his pre-draft visit, was taken with the 25th pick of the seventh round as the 243rd overall selection.
Crossen's selection was announced by a New England fan, Jonathan Aquino.
Crossen is just the eighth Catamount football player selected in the NFL Draft all-time and the first WCU player to be drafted since tight end Andrew Jordan was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1994 draft. Crossen was also one of 19 players from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) selected in the three-day event and was the only player from the Southern Conference to be drafted.
A two-sport student-athlete during his time in Cullowhee, Crossen stood out on the football field while also lending his talents to the Western Carolina track & field teams, where he was the SoCon champion in the men's 100-meter dash at the 2016 outdoor championships, setting a school record with a time of 10.33, which also qualified him for the NCAA East Preliminary.
It was that athleticism that likely landed Crossen the draft pick. Though he wasn't invited to the NFL Combine, he attended a couple of Pro Days, where he was clocked at 4.32 in the 40-yard dash – a number that reportedly would have ranked first at the combine. His vertical (39.5) would have stacked up second against all other cornerbacks, while his three-cone shuttle (6.67) and broad jump (10 feet, 11 inches) would have ranked him third.
On the football field, Crossen was a two-year starter in the defensive secondary for the Catamounts, amassing 165 career tackles in 46 games over his four-year career including 106 solo stops and five tackles for loss. He finished with three career interceptions and a total of 19 pass break-ups – seven in both his junior and senior seasons.
A versatile athlete, Crossen recorded just one offensive carry during his career – a 16-yard jet sweep – while also returning five kickoffs for an average of 29.4 yards per return, including a long of 38 yards. Crossen's touches were limited in that capacity, though, as he was behind one of WCU's all-time greatest all-purpose backs in Detrez Newsome, who up until 2017 saw the bulk of the return duty.
As a senior on defense, Crossen amassed a career-best 67 tackles with 39 solo stops and a pair of TFLs, including a sack on a corner blitz. He was also credited with both forcing and recovering a fumble while matching his single-season best with seven pass deflections. Starting as a junior, Crossen finished with 61 tackles including a single-year high of 43 solo hits in 2016. Two of his three career picks came as a sophomore in 2015 – one against Mars Hill and the other came against the run-oriented Wofford Terriers.
Crossen was a two-time SoCon Defensive Player of the Week, garnering the honor in both his junior and senior campaigns. Last year, Crossen broke up a pass in the end zone on the final play of regulation to secure WCU's upset victory over nationally ranked Samford that halted a 27-game winless drought against ranked FCS opponents. During his junior season, Crossen was rewarded for his play that included a scoop-and-score fumble recovery for a touchdown and a 65-yard interception return, finishing with 103 all-purpose yards in the home victory over VMI.
In addition to his leadership on the field, Crossen was a vocal leader in the WCU locker room. For his prowess away from the gridiron, the Garysburg, N.C., product was nominated for the 2017 Allstate / AFCA Good Works Team.
Though he was not drafted by New England, Crossen follows a WCU legacy into Foxboro as former Catamount wide receiver David Patten remains a well-known name and highly regarded former Patriot who also played collegiately in Cullowhee.