Crawford was in his final year at Boise State. Lawrence was visiting the school, sporting his Butler Community College swag, unsure of what college he would choose.
“Everybody who seen me was like, ‘Who’s this dude with the big Barney suit on?’” Lawrence remembered. “They were on my head bad.”
At dinner the night before the Broncos played Wyoming, Lawrence wanted Crawford to try a pass-rush move in the game. Arm over, back pat, rip. The game was in the third quarter and Crawford did not have a sack.
“He’s looking at me, ‘Use the move. Use the move,’” Crawford said. “We get out there and it’s third down. I’m going to use the move exactly how he said and I got a sack.”
One of the first people Crawford saw on the sideline was Lawrence, who was jumping up and down like they were teammates and not somebody he had known for only a couple of days.
“Man, I’m going to tell everybody this story for the rest of our lives,” Lawrence said.
The connection Crawford and Lawrence formed that weekend in Boise has only grown stronger in the years since. Since 2014, they have been teammates on the Dallas Cowboys, navigating life with each other’s help on and off the field.
It’s not often people get to go to work every day with their best friend.
“They’re complete opposites of each other, but they balance each other out,” Crawford’s wife, Kelsey, said. “They meet in the middle. They’re good for each other.”
Crawford grew up in Windsor, Ontario. Lawrence grew up in South Carolina. Both went to junior colleges before going to Boise State. Crawford was a third-round pick by the Cowboys in 2012. The Cowboys traded up in the second round to take Lawrence in 2014.
Lawrence is a little more brash, willing to speak his mind. Crawford is content to be a little more in the background. Lawrence will dress more loudly, too, with bright colors and a big chain featuring the defensive line’s nickname, “Hot Boyz.” Crawford is conservative, although he did recently display his roots, with the Canadian flag on the lining of his suit.
“I think we pull each other in different ways, which is good, because as a person you don’t want to be stuck. You want to be pulled out of it sometimes,” Crawford said. “I think we both do that at the right times, especially when it’s time to work and one of us doesn’t want to, the other does. So we always get to grinding. We hold each other accountable. We definitely need that. That goes with our family life as well.”
Lawrence and his fiancé, Sasha, have a son, Demari. The Crawfords welcomed their first child, Mia, in June.
“That’s my little Mama Mia, yeah, just like my son is his nephew,” Lawrence said. “Something happens to me, it’s his responsibility, just like it’s mine if something happens to him. I mean, that’s what brothers do for each other.”
Sasha and Kelsey are close, too. They travel to away games together. For the games at AT&T Stadium, they changed their seats to be next to each other. The families vacationed in the British Virgin Islands together.
For hours each night, they played dominos on a boat.
“Super competitive,” said Kelsey, a former volleyball player. “We’ll play some other games, but we do boys versus girls and usually the girls win.”
The plan now is to take at least one vacation together every year.
“That’s family to me," Crawford said. "Can’t nobody mess with D and ain’t nobody messing with me.”
In 2016, Lawrence was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Crawford gave him the tough love he needed, telling him to stop smoking.
“Just trying to be his friend, his big-bro type of guy to him as far as when it comes to his football life and more importantly, his life outside of football,” Crawford said.
Without Crawford, Lawrence isn’t sure he would have become the player he is.
“I’m telling you, through those dark times in my life, I sat back and I used to tell my girl all the time, ‘Babe, I’m grateful I have Ty on my team.' Like, shoot, I know he helped us a lot. When you go down your dark ways and you lose your way and lose your vision of life, and you have somebody come tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘I’m here for you,’ I mean, s---, that’s all you need. That’s all somebody need is a helping hand, just a touch, ‘Man, I appreciate you and I see you working hard.’ Those things go a long way.”
Friendships are difficult to maintain in the NFL. Careers don’t last long. Players come and go all the time. But Lawrence and Crawford are always together. If one has a charitable event, the other is there. If one goes to dinner, the other goes, too. They have their own handshakes and can say things to each other that others can’t.
“Yeah, I get sick of him,” Crawford said. “All the time. But it’s that love that you have for each other.”
Crawford just turned 29 and is in his seventh season. He suffered a torn Achilles in 2013. He has had multiple shoulder surgeries. He can start to see the end of his career and is signed through 2020.
Lawrence is just 26 and in his fifth year. He had multiple back surgeries but is just now hitting his prime. His 23 sacks the last two seasons are fifth-most in the NFL. He is set to become a free agent when the season ends, although the Cowboys could use the franchise tag on him for a second straight season. Ultimately, however, the goal is to sign their best pass-rusher to a long-term deal.
One long enough for Lawrence and Crawford to see their kids grow up together.
“I told that little f----- he’s not retiring on me, and I told the organization, ‘Y’all let Tyrone go, I’m going to be pissed.’ That’s my dog,” Lawrence said. “We ride together. I mean, you don’t want me coming to work, dreading being at work. I’m at work because I want to play with him every down. So I mean, just embrace this moment in my life, and I already know after football we’ll be close.”
Maybe not five minutes apart, like now, but not too far away, either.
“Bro, trust me when I say that that’s my guy, that’s my guy,” Lawrence said. “I ain’t sitting here and say, ‘I love you. You’re my bro,’ and you’re not. Yeah, that’s my brother.”