Ben Queen, USA Today Sports

Every once in a while, a story pops up around the sports world that makes you smile. These stories seem to be few and far between, but they most definitely lift you up in a positive way.

The story of West Virginia leading rusher Justin Crawford does just this. A JUCO transfer prior to this season, Crawford has been tasked with helping replace current Philadelphia Eagles running back Wendall Smallwood in Morgantown.

And he’s done a tremendous job of it on the field. Crawford leads the Mountaineers with 227 rushing yards through three games. The former Northwest Mississippi Community College star is also averaging 5.4 yards per rush.

However, it’s what Crawford is juggling off the field that makes his story so inspiring. A father of two small children, Crawford and his wife are not necessarily in the best financial situations.

It’s in this that the running back took a job at the local Taco Bell once arriving in West Virginia this past summer. According to Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen, it even got to the point where the program had to talk to Crawford about NCAA rule violations.

“Dude, you can’t do this when the season starts,” Holgorsen told Crawford, via

Crawford responded in the affirmative, working at the fast-food joint until the beginning of August. He simply wanted to support his young family.

West Virginia teammates have also made sure to note what they’ve seen from Crawford and how it has inspired them during his short time with the program.

“It’s kind of do or die for him,” West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard said. “He wants to support his family and wants to put food on the table, whether that’s with a degree or going to the NFL.”

At a time when there’s a split between student-athletes and the NCAA over compensation of amateurs, stories like these serve a purpose. They tell us that through hard work, anything is possible. That’s exactly what Crawford has represented in his short time with West Virginia.

It’s not an ideal situation, and there’s definitely reform needed at the NCAA level. But Crawford should serve as an inspiration to others who are dealing with the same issues life in college athletics bring.

For now, his wife found a job in Morgantown with Crawford solely focusing on athletics and education.

This is definitely a story we should follow as the 2016 college football season progresses. Let’s all hope for continued success from Crawford, both in the classroom and on the field.