Alge Crumpler ’00 – My Carolina Story

For many years, a member of the GAA Board of Directors has presented a “My Carolina Story” at each of the board’s quarterly meetings, and we are sharing their stories with all of our alumni. Hark the Sound.

Listen Now

“The hardest part of making the decision was the understanding that if I chose UNC, there would be limited opportunities for my father to see me play.”

Jan. 14, 2022

I attended UNC on a football scholarship, graduated with a BS in communications, played 10 years in the NFL, married my college sweetheart, and now I’m committed to raising my family and doing volunteer work. That’s me in a nutshell, but after reading all the wonderful Carolina stories prior to mine, I feel that I owe a little more.

I truly believe the start to every Carolina Story should ask the question: When did you fall in love with UNC?

Because for me, it took quite a while. My first love was the school two hours east, East Carolina University. The one where my father, ECU Hall of Famer Carlester Crumpler, made a name for himself. Also, the same school in which my older brother, Carlester T. Crumpler, was an All-American.

My father was the color analyst for the Pirate Football Radio Network, alongside the Voice of the Pirates, Jeff Charles. Each Saturday, when the Pirates had a home game, you could find me listening to my father on a set of broken headphones in one ear, while walking up and down the aisle selling peanuts, often getting lost in a daze, watching my brother play on offense. My dad called every single collegiate game my older brother played in, and in my mind, he was going to do the same for me. UNC wasn’t even on my radar. My teams were the East Carolina Pirates football team and the Fab Five Michigan basketball team.

Well …. until Chris Webber called that time out. What a game! UNC’s first basketball championship since Mike Jordan ’86 hit the shot in ’82. So now the newly minted national champs put all things Tar Heels on my radar. A few years later, a visit to Chapel Hill in the summer of 1995 was all I needed to be all in. I attended the Mack Brown football camp, and coach offered me a full scholarship on the spot. I was elated, and he wanted me to commit. I was a rising senior in school, and to commit that early in those days didn’t always happen. The hardest part of making the decision was the understanding that if I chose UNC, there would be limited opportunities for my father to see me play. He would still be calling games on the Pirate Radio Network for ECU on the same Saturdays that I would eventually be lacing up my cleats to play in Kenan Stadium.

He said, “Son, it’s your decision, handle yourself with class, and I’ll come to as many games as I can.” (Which happened to only be a few.) So I eventually committed, played my senior year of high school, devoted my fandom to all things Tar Heels (Michigan who?) and prepared for my official visit.

The weather the week of my official visit wasn’t great. The weekend prior, the first weekend in January of 1996, there was a snow and ice storm. I desperately wanted to head to Chapel Hill for my official visit. As my mom and I started the journey, what would normally take 2.5 hours to drive from Wilmington to Chapel Hill took four hours as the snow started to fall again. As we got toward Raleigh, the snow was coming down even harder. The roads were slick, and my mom, a praying woman, just uttered the words, “Thank you, Jesus” about 50 times in the final hour of our trek from Raleigh, given the slower speeds.

There wasn’t much to do on campus, given the weather, but the laughs and jokes from guys who would eventually become my teammates made it a worthwhile trip.

After graduation, I spent the summer working at a local amusement park, Jungle Rapids, and playing basketball every day at the YMCA. I was in impeccable shape, running-wise, but I wasn’t anywhere near as strong as I needed to be. The first week on campus, our strength coach, the legendary Jeff “Mad Dog” Madden, put us through a battery of tests. A survival run, which was a timed 1,000-yard shuttle that I passed with flying colors, and some max-out test in the weight room. I bench-pressed 295 pounds at a soaking wet 215 pounds, and I was pretty happy. Five minutes later, two of my classmates, Brandon Spoon ’00 and James Wagstaff ’08, had bench-pressed 430 apiece. Eighteen-year-olds bench-pressing 430 pounds! I was devastated. I called my father and told him I was a bit nervous about the journey ahead.

He told me that whatever room you’re in, you have to put in the work. And as long as I did that, everything would be fine. So off to work I went.

My first two years at UNC, from a football record standpoint, were the best two years in Carolina football history. Ten wins in 1996 followed by 11 in 1997 and All-ACC honors. Even then, not too many people knew who I was. Far before the NIL deals (Name, Image and Likeness) where athletes can finally profit off their names, I had to find other ways to get noticed. Because of the rules, I couldn’t do any commercials for Bojangles like Sam Howell ’01 (though no one in the state could pitch a Bojangles sausage, egg and cheese biscuit in 1996 quite like me). So I did the next best thing. I did what everyone else in Chapel Hill did in the mid-’90s if they wanted to be known. I strolled right down to Sutton’s Drug Store on Franklin Street, ordered the best meal I could afford (two hot dogs), got my picture taken and made sure upon return that it got good placement. Somewhere within the same gaze as the photos of Vince Carter ’99 and Antawn Jamison ’99.

Definitely the most famous faces on campus at the time. Had I known he would be as famous as he is now, I would have had my picture placed somewhere near Doug Dibbert ’70.

Now, my first two years of college have flown by, but 1998 wasn’t quite what I had in mind. Mack Brown, my favorite coach, leaves to go to Texas, and I tore my ACL in spring practice a few months later. And in the fall, I could only watch from the sidelines. My younger brother, Bryan, a Morehead-Cain Scholar, was in the marching band. Some weeks I would stay back and watch the band perform at halftime, something I was never able to do when I was playing. That was usually the only thing I smiled about because I missed playing so much. I had to take a medical redshirt and forced myself to lock in academically. Because who drafts guys in the NFL with bum knees?

I still managed to earn All-ACC in two more seasons and finish second in the shot put at the ACC Championships in track and field a year after tearing my ACL. In December 2000, I graduated with a BS in communications and still managed to get drafted in the second round of the NFL draft.

The next few years were important. My focus was on my building my career and starting my own family with my new wife, Jennifer ’98, and eventually my three beautiful daughters: Kendal, Ava and Campbell.

My NFL career was off and running. By my third year with the Atlanta Falcons, I had reached Pro Bowl status. I was now one of the best in the league at my position. Four straight trips to Hawaii to play in the Pro Bowl was my reward. I loved it! I had an opportunity to be teammates at the Pro Bowl with Julius Peppers ’02, Dre Bly ’99, William Henderson ’96, Greg Ellis ’97 and Jeff Saturday ’97. The Heels were well represented.

Football was doing me well. Atlanta was good for me. Our team owner, Arthur Blank, taught me a lot about community service. He always spoke to the team to make sure we would strive to win a championship on and off the field. Tuesdays during the season was our dedicated off day. It was often filled with hospital visits, elementary school visits or planned team bonding events. I was building something with my local community whether we won or lost the previous Sunday. I felt I needed to have that same energy for servitude in the off-season for my home community.

I was appointed honorary chair of the capital campaign to raise funds to build Boys and Girls Clubs in Pitt County, where I had attended the club in my youth. I gave financially to the campaign, but more importantly, I gave my time. I would fly into North Carolina numerous times during the off-season, visiting companies and individuals until we raised over $2 million to break ground on new clubs. I credit The Boys and Girls Club, along with my family and faith, for helping to build the foundation of who I am today. In 2007, I was inducted into the National Boys and Girls Clubs Alumni Hall of Fame.

My time in Atlanta with the Falcons was up after seven years. I was proud to have been a captain of the team and leader in the community, and I decided to permanently call it my home, even though my career would continue elsewhere.

The next journey was in Nashville with the Tennessee Titans for two years, followed by a year in Foxborough with the New England Patriots. I retired having been a captain alongside Tom Brady, the greatest QB to ever play, and Bill Belichick, the greatest coach to ever coach. I suited up for all but four games over a 10-year career, and it was a wonderful ride.

The things I missed the most about gamedays was the bus ride to the stadiums. I had been playing or working in stadiums since I was a kid. The one thing I never had a chance to do was tailgate. I attended one or two the year I retired, but I wanted to do more of it. Two years later I bought a 43-foot-long motorhome. I was determined to tailgate.

On Friday afternoons I would start my 6-hour drive from Atlanta to Chapel Hill to tailgate. I would pull into the Skipper Bowles lot across from the Smith Center late at night, set up the tailgate bright and early, cheer on the Tar Heels while watching my daughters fall in love with Chapel Hill. Then I would load up and leave at 4 a.m. to race back to Atlanta in time to do the pregame show for the Atlanta Falcons Radio Network. I had gotten into sports radio work part time, but by the time I had purchased my RV, I was working 6-10 a.m. daily covering the Atlanta Falcons, Braves, Hawks, Georgia Tech Yellowjackets and the Georgia Bulldogs. Those were fun years, especially when the teams were good. When they weren’t, it was extremely tough telling our listeners the honest truth. They loved it … team brass, not so much.

Football retirement was going well, but there was more I could be doing. Midway through my career, my wife and I had decided to endow a scholarship through the Rams Club as a thank-you for what was done for me throughout my time at UNC. After all, when I tore my ACL and my future was uncertain, the training staff and new coaches stuck by me. In essence, I gave my scholarship back.

I was so proud to be in a position financially to be able do so, and my mom always said, “Son, when you give, give from the heart.” And I certainly did, I gave from the heart, and I enjoyed the Rams Club points that came with it. I purchased great seats on the run to Roy Williams’ ’72 first title in 2005: two games in Greensboro, two games in Syracuse for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, and then, ultimately, a championship against Illinois in St. Louis. Roy won three titles. I was at all of them. When my football team heads to the college football playoffs, I’ll be there, too.

And now, many years retired, I wanted to do more. I spoke with Ken Mack ’79 with the Rams Club, and I told him I was ready to do what I could to help UNC. He introduced me to the Rams Club advisory board. That opportunity put me in a position to learn about the operational needs for the teams of our 800 student athletes across 28 sports on this campus.

I now serve on the executive board of the Rams Club, which just surpassed the $500 million For All Kind capital campaign goal, the third largest in the University’s $4.25 billion Campaign for Carolina goal.

Servitude is one of my core principles, and it’s why I’m committed to so many causes on this beautiful campus. Mack Brown tells every recruit that coming to Carolina is a 40-year decision, not a four-year decision. So I’ll be committed for a lifetime of service.

So when Doug Dibbert calls and says you’ve been elected to the GAA board (spoiler, Greg Parent ’92 broke the news and told me first), you serve. When Chancellor Guskiewicz calls and says we need you on the Chancellors Philanthropic Council, you serve. When Ken Mack and John Montgomery call and say we need you to serve on the executive board of the Rams Club, you serve. And when the Board of Trustees say come join the Board of Visitors, you serve.

If it’s a 40-year decision, I’m only halfway through the journey. I look forward to serving many more years.