When Michael Crabtree busts a move in the end zone, he’s paying tribute to his favorite cabbage-patching, prime-timing, ball-signing players he grew up watching.
“Everyone loves a good touchdown celebration,” Crabtree says with a smirk as he shows me his new Crab Shake dance. The moves are inspired by the new Ubisoft game “The Hip-Hop Dance Experience,” and every time the flashy receiver gets down, the gaming company donates $1,000 to Crabtree’s favorite charity, the Boys & Girls Club.
Ubisoft even sent a dance choreographer to Crabtree’s San Jose, Calif., pad to teach him the moves to the beats of Bay Area legend Too Short.
“Gotta show the Bay Area some love,” Crabtree says about Too Short. “I’m from Texas and the Crab Shake is straight from the south side, but the music, that’s the Bay right there. The south side mixed with the Bay Area, to me, that’s the best of both worlds.”
ESPN Playbook: What were some of your favorite touchdown celebrations growing up?
Michael Crabtree: Man, I couldn’t wait to see T.O. or Deion or Chad Ochocinco score a touchdown because I couldn’t wait to see what they had. In the past years, you can’t really dance like you used to, you can’t really celebrate like you used to, but if you have some simple dance moves, those are the best celebrations right now. It’s all about getting in the end zone. I need to get in the end zone more. The dance moves are the easy part; scoring that touchdown, that’s the hard part.
What was it like having a famous dance instructor actually coming to your house to teach you the Crab Shake?
It was cool. The guy had so many different dance moves, and the same guy did the moves for LeSean McCoy and Von Miller. Von Miller is from Dallas, so you know he’s got some moves. [laughs] It was a great deal. We were having some fun in my living room trying to come up with this dance.
Do you consider yourself a good dancer off the field?
A little bit. I’ve got some moves.
What is it about the Boys & Girls Club that makes it your charity of choice?
This is real, because every day when I was growing up, I was at the Boys & Girls Club just playing everything. We played pool and pingpong, we were running and racing, playing football and basketball and boxing. I just grew up there, and they were even there for me when I needed tutoring, so I felt it was only right that I support them right back. That’s what’s so great about this, I’m dancing and celebrating in the end zone, and I’m giving back at the same time. It really means a lot to me.
”The Hip-Hop Dance Experience” has a pretty sweet soundtrack. What music do you listen to in the locker room to get you hyped up before a game?
I listen to Future, 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, and Young Jeezy. Those guys get me amped up.
Were you a big video game player growing up?
Growing up, all I did was play video games. I was a big “Madden” fan, and even before that, I was a big “Tecmo Bowl” guy. “Tecmo Bowl,” that was the game. It was so simple, but at the same time, I think that’s what made it so much fun. There weren’t even any flags, you could run all around the field with Bo Jackson. I love that game. You play “Madden” now, and it’s crazy how much it is like real football. Video games have come a long way.
Do fans come up to you and talk about your “Madden” character?
Man, fans talk about everything. It’s funny, because I always think they just want to talk about football, what actually happened out on the field, but they want to talk about that “Madden” game and how you do in fantasy football.
Are they going to incorporate the Crab Shake in “Madden” next year?
I hope so. That would be cool to see. You always want to see your character be as much like you as possible, so they have to get the dance.
Are you happy with your character in the game?
They need to give me some more speed in there. I check the ratings, and I couldn’t believe my score. My speed is a little suspect in that game, but I’m going to keep my cool. [laughs] If you see the “Madden” guys, just tell them to boost my speed up a little bit.
It’s funny because right now the real-life 49ers are mirroring more of the “Madden” 49ers because gamers have been starting Colin Kaepernick as quarterback for months because of his running ability.
Oh man, I thought I was the only one. [laughs and claps hands] In the game, you can run around crazy with him.
I hear Kaepernick’s velocity is crazy in practice. Are you guys worried about hurting your hands?
He should’ve been a baseball player. He’s got such an amazing arm, I bet he could’ve been a great pitcher. He puts so much on his throws, if you don’t focus on that ball, he’s going to break one of your fingers.
How much potential does he have as a quarterback? Is he going to end up on that list of greats next to Montana and Young?
The sky’s the limit. He has all the tools, and what people don’t realize is how tall he is. He looks kind of funny running because he’s so tall, but he’s so athletic at the same time, so you just never know what he’s going to do next.
How has the locker room handled the quarterback switch?
Everyone is mature about it. Everyone is mature in our locker room. We got some guys who have been around for a while. We have some younger guys who don’t really understand, but Alex [Smith], he has been through so much, he’s one of those dudes who can handle anything. He’d been booed, then came back to lead us to the NFC Championship Game. They’re both my dudes, so I don’t want to sit up here and talk about one or the other. They’re both my quarterbacks.
Are we going to see the Crab Shake in the Super Bowl this year?
I hope you see it every week from this moment on. Let’s Crab Shake it out.