BLOOMINGTON — Indiana senior offensive lineman Harry Crider was faced with an important, personal decision heading into the 2020 college football season.
Entering Year 2 as a starter on IU’s offensive line, the 6-foot-4, 311-pound Crider was moving back to his natural position of center after starting at left guard for most of last season. He sensed there was a chance IU could build off its best season since 1993 and have an even more special year.
But as a Type 1 diabetic, Crider faced health risks in trying to play college football during the COVID-19 pandemic with a compromised immune system.
“Obviously, there is a little extra concern there, being a little more vulnerable with the autoimmune issues,” Crider said.
After consulting with doctors and family, Crider chose to forge ahead and play football. He’s been a key leader up front for the No. 9 Hoosiers (4-0), who will play at No. 3 Ohio State (3-0) in the first top-10 matchup for IU since 1969.
In talking with doctors, Crider learned more serious issues involving COVID and diabetes centered on Type 2 diabetics and older patients.
“Being young and in shape, there wasn’t much of a concern there,” Crider said.
Type 1 diabetes, known also as juvenile diabetes, impacts 1.4 million adults 20 years or older and 187,000 children younger than 20, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics. A chronic condition, it occurs when the pancreas produces little to no insulin and appears more often during childhood or adolescence.
Crider was diagnosed when he was 10. It began as a flu sickness. There also is a genetic component to Type 1 diabetes, and Crider had a family history of the illness on his mother’s side.
“My mom was kind of aware of the symptoms of it, and so we started seeing those kind of patterns,” Crider said. “We actually had a home blood sugar testing kit, and so we were able to get a test at home before even going into the doctor, and it was like in the 300s, I think, around 350. So it was pretty clear from there what was next.”
Crider spent the next few nights at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, what he called a “boot camp” in which he learned the basics of diabetes and how to manage it. He’s done so throughout his high school career at Columbus East and his college career at IU.
“My parents were really closely monitoring me those first few years I got it and always by their side,” Crider said. “They wouldn’t let me leave their sight. But as I’ve gotten older, grown obviously a lot more independent in that regard, and it’s basically second nature now, you know. But I just try to stay on top of blood sugar, make sure I don’t get too high, too low and then always have insulin around if necessary.
“I’m on an insulin pump, so it’s easy to just throw it on and get some insulin if necessary and like for games, checking before the games and at halftime, and at halftime to know whether I need Gatorade to raise sugar or I need insulin to bring my blood sugar down a little bit.”
Growing up, Crider could look to examples of Type 1 diabetics who excelled in football, including former NFL quarterback and Santa Claus native Jay Cutler. Like Crider, Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews is playing football through the pandemic with Type 1 diabetes this season.
“Jay Cutler, he was actually one of the first ones I learned about when I was younger,” Crider said. “It was cool following him throughout his career because of that, and obviously he’s an Indiana guy as well.”
Crider was able to give back to Riley Children’s Hospital as part of a high school senior project, in which he raised $16,000 through speaking engagements as a hospital ambassador. Based on his scholarship, leadership and community service, Crider is in consideration for a number of prestigious college football awards, including the Wuerffel Trophy and the William V Campbell Trophy.
“I had several speaking engagements in front of groups of people telling my story, in connection to Riley,” Crider said. “So, yeah, my public speaking and just the publicity of the project garnered a lot of support, and (I’m) super thankful and it turned out working well.”
Crider isn’t that same type of orator in the IU locker room, but teammates say he leads by example in a quiet, consistent manner.
“He’s never going to be the most noisiest guy in the room,” IU left tackle Caleb Jones said. “But when he talks, you better listen because nine times out of 10, it’s pretty important.”
Crider said he’s been careful following protocols away from practice, wearing masks and social distancing. The Hoosiers had a two-week pause during summer workouts but haven’t encountered serious outbreaks since
“Obviously, I’ve been fortunate enough not to get COVID yet,” Crider said. “So hoping to keep that up, and, yeah, it’s been good so far.”