ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- It didn't take Tim Crawford very long to appreciate and fall in love with soccer.
Crawford discovered the game growing up in Webster, N.Y. when he was around four, playing in the Webster Soccer Presidential League and his love affair with the game blossomed from there. At Webster Thomas High School, he earned All-Greater Rochester honors.
"I fell in love [with soccer] at a really young age," he said. "I was just one of the faster, better guys on the field. I was like, 'This is something I'm good at. I'm going to stick with it. I got better and better and I fell more in love with it as the years went on. It just became part of my life."
The Rochester Lancers defender will be rewarded for his passion, talent and dedication to the game as he will be inducted into the team's indoor Wall of Fame at halftime of the Jan. 31 match against the Baltimore Blast.
Crawford admitted he was shocked about being selected but was honored as well. After all, he is still playing with the team.
"Honestly, I was a bit surprised at first because I haven't been around as the other guys are on that list or have the credentials that they do. obviously, being a part of anything with SoccerSam [team owner Salvatore Fantauzzo], getting to be recognized by him and any of his teams is a huge honor," he said. "I'm just proud to represent my family and this team and this city. Just being something great like the Rochester Lancers. It's everything that Sam does. Je puts his heart and soul into and we try and give it back."
Don't be surprised if you hear many cheers when Crawford is introduced among the 20 inductees during halftime ceremonies. He is expecting many friends and members of his family -- they live in Webster -- to attend the match.
"I’ve got a large group of friends and I'm sure a majority of them will be there," he said. "They'll be sitting down in the corner, cheering me on the whole game. I have a lot of great support in my life. That's huge for me."
After graduating from college, Crawford started a job when he heard that the Lancers were holding a combine.
"I didn't have anywhere to play at the time because I was just out of college," he said. "I said, 'Why not and give it a go? I'm still young, still fresh.' "
Crawford met head coach Doug Miller when he did a Make-a-Wish Foundation commercial for him when he was about seven.
"I was at one of his camps. He picked me out, so ... I thought, maybe Doug will remember me or something like that, but obviously not at the time," he said.
Still, he was good enough to be signed by the club for the 2014-15 season.
"The indoor game was a tough transition, but Doug put a lot of faith in me," he said. "I put a lot of hard work in, started to pick it up. It was crazy playing with the amount of talent on the team at the time like .... Mauricio Salles, Rey Martinez and all those guys. It was crazy, fun learning from them. I had a great time playing for them. I just want to keep going. I just never wanted to stop playing soccer."
Miller has known Crawford's worth as an indoor and outdoor player. "He hasn't missed a beat," he said. “He's athletic, he's strong and he wants to compete for everything. It's great to have him on the team."
Crawford scored his first goal as a Lancer during that season in a 25-13 home victory over the Detroit Waza Flo, which snapped a five-game losing streak.
"I just remember that moment, putting that first goal in and turning around and all my teammates knew it was my first goal, too," he said. "They all hugged me. Doug was playing in that game and he went onto the field and hugged me. I've got a picture of that. It's moments like that I won't forget for the rest of my life. All the guys were so happy for me. And right after that, getting the ball to throw into the stands and throwing it right to my dad. He's still got it on his shelf. Every time I see it, it makes me proud that I can make him proud; my mom as well."
The Lancers went on hiatus after that season, so Crawford played for the Syracuse Silver Knights the next year but returned to the Lancers for their first National Premier Soccer League season in 2017.
He's not quite yet 30 -- Crawford celebrated his 28th birthday on Dec. 28 -- yet he has been called on to be a leader on a team that is dominated by many first-year MASL players.
"I try to be a voice on the team. Doug and John John Berardicurti [assistant coach] expect that, too. Just because I have that experience. the knowledge that I do have, they expect me to pass that on. I’ve never really been in that position in the indoor game, so it's a learning curve for me. I'm always that player in the locker room, trying to pump everyone up and get them going. That's always been the type of player I've been. I don't necessarily feel like a veteran quite yet, but definitely on this team I feel like I have a little more experience so I try to pass as much off to my teammates as much as I can."
When he isn't playing soccer, Crawford works in sales for We Find Plants Now, formerly Horticulture Associates. He sells trailer loads of trees, shrubs, perennial to large landscaping projects and new buildings plantings.
"I work a lot with nurseries all over the country," he said., work on the whole procurement of trees and shipping them and selling them."