The overwhelming majority of players on the Colorado football team came to Boulder from places west of the Mississippi River, but there are a few East Coasters on the roster and within that group are three young men from the same Washington D.C. high school.

They were dubbed the 'D.C. Three' when they chose to sign with Colorado in the 2012 recruiting cycle. Cornerbacks Kenneth Crawley and John Walker and defensive end De'Jon Wilson came to Boulder a year ago. Only Crawley played as a true freshman last season while his old high school teammates redshirted. Walker's 2012 season ended early when he injured his hand in training camp.

They love Boulder, the school and the football program that gave them the opportunity to escape the hardscrabble atmosphere in which they grew up. They used to walk through metal detectors just to start each day of high school, and experienced more than their share of loss, crime and treachery growing up.

All three have lost friends, family members or both to gun violence.

"We safe out here," Crawley said matter-of-factly.

Given those realities, one would think they would be thrilled to be 2,000 miles away in a much more laid back, safe environment where strangers say hello on the streets and the biggest concern on their minds about being out past 10 p.m. is making coach Mike MacIntyre unhappy.


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That is true most of the time. The thing is, it has been a culture shock adjusting to this new life beneath the Flatirons. Yes, it's possible to get homesick for a place where danger lurks around even the most familiar corners.

"In D.C., you see a person die every day and hear about it," Walker said. "I know a lot of the dudes around here, they ain't really used to that. We had to come out here and get used to being around guys here. In D.C. you have to act a certain way. Out here, you can just relax and you don't have to worry about watching your back or if somebody is going to try to take the shoes you have on or anything like that. You can just relax out here."

John Walker speaks to a reporter during CU Fall Sports Media Day on Aug. 10, 2013.
John Walker speaks to a reporter during CU Fall Sports Media Day on Aug. 10, 2013. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

Crawley is in position to be a starting cornerback for the second straight season.

Walker had a productive spring after redshirting, but has been dealing with a groin injury in fall camp. When he gets healthy, he should be a regular contributor in the secondary and on special teams.

Wilson is battling to earn a spot in the defensive line rotation at defensive end and he's fighting the grief of having three friends killed since January back home.

"It's a very tough city to grow up in and we're blessed to make it out of there," Wilson said. "There is a lot of friends and family that get lost in the streets and we lose a lot of people to a lot of gun violence. It feels good to get on track and do the right thing. When we go home, it's just motivation for our friends and family to do the right thing and follow in our footsteps. We're trying to get everybody on the right track."

There is actually a fourth member of their unique fraternity. Former Buff Sherrard Harrington, another defensive back, was the first to choose to leave D.C. for Boulder back in 2011. He was a year older than his former teammates.

Harrington was on the roster until this spring when he reinjured his hip and doctors advised him to give up the sport. Injuries prevented him from playing a down in a CU uniform, but helping to bring his three former teammates to Boulder just might be a legacy of which he can be proud.

Harrington also has made the most of his opportunity in the classroom at CU. He started a real estate business that is off to an exciting start.

All three members of the D.C. Three believe they will be able to make significant contributions to the CU defense or special teams this fall. They each possess the kind of athleticism that CU needs more of on the field.

When they weren't on the field practicing or in football meetings or classes last season, they were often in dorms where they felt trapped. Now they are allowed to live off campus and they have started to explore the world around them.

"It just makes you appreciate life more," Walker said. "Out here you're exposed to things I never would have done back at home. Like I have been Buena Vista a couple times and been hiking up there. I would have never been hiking. I would have been just sitting outside in the neighborhood. And there ain't nothing good back in that neighborhood. So it's something negative I would have been doing. It is good that I chose to come all the way out west and stayed away from home."

CU’s De’Jon Wilson.
CU's De'Jon Wilson. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

CU football players generally get to spend a total of a month at home during each year they are in the program. One week generally comes around Christmas and three weeks in May after the spring semester and before summer workouts.

Crawley, Walker and Wilson enjoy being able to go home and spend time with their families but they are greeted by an old familiar feeling when they reenter that world they left behind.

It is the anxiety of living life on guard, questioning everyone's motives and trying to identify the threats a block away.

"Coming out here to Colorado really opened my eyes that there is life beyond D.C.," Wilson said. "The world is bigger than D.C. It's really tough going home and all your friends you went to high school with or elementary school with are in jail or dead from someone that they knew. It's just very tough."

They all try and stay away from the areas they know are trouble spots and get together with each other or other friends that escaped to college life in other spots around the country. Crawley says he usually stays with an aunt who doesn't live in the city.

"When I go home, like the second day I'm there I always wish I'm back here," Crawley said. "I second guess making the purchase for the plane ticket going home and I just want to be back here. It's more drama-free."

Contact staff writer Kyle Ringo at

ringok@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/kyleringo.