After his first 1,000-yard receiving season, San Francisco’s leading wideout remains unsatisfied.
The 49ers came within five yards of winning the franchise's sixth Super Bowl, but could not complete a fade route to
“I just can’t let it go,” the fifth-year pro told 49ers.com. “It’s something that’s going to stick with me until I accomplish my goal.
“A lot of people don’t know that about me, but I’m ready. I’m ready for this year. I’m ready to take on my job as the No. 1 receiver for the 49ers.”
Crabtree produced career-highs across the board in 2012. The 6-foot-1, 214-pound wideout caught 85 passes, 1,105 receiving yards to go with nine touchdown catches. In the postseason, Crabtree produced two, 100-yard receiving games and added three touchdown receptions, including a 31-yard touchdown catch in the Super Bowl.
Still, Crabtree wants to increase his production and assert himself as one of the top players in the National Football League. He’s been committed to his craft throughout his career in San Francisco, but Crabtree wants more.
“I’m taking a different approach this year,” he said. “I’m the No. 1 receiver on the 49ers and you can quote me on that because I’m really working hard and I’m really trying to be the best player, one of the best in the NFL. It’s going to take a lot. I know what it’s going to take. I just need to go out there and take it.”
Crabtree’s No. 1 receiver statement wasn’t without reason.
“I’ve been quiet the past four years on who’s the No. 1 receiver,” he continued. “I try not to talk about that, but I’m going into my fifth-year, it’s really time to take that responsibility, be No. 1 and go out and do your job and give the fans what they want to see and give the coaches what they expect of you and that’s greatness or be the best I can be.”
Even after the breakout performances in the biggest games of the year, Crabtree is eager to build on the chemistry he formed with Kaepernick. The leading wideout has been talking about it with teammates this offseason, most notably, tight end
“I’m going on my fifth year, I feel like I need to work a little harder this year,” Crabtree said. “With Kaepernick’s second year, I’m really here to relieve the pressure that’s on him and do my job. I’ve been talking to Vernon a lot about really taking our game to another level.
“Everyone’s taking their game to the next level. We’ve been to the top, a couple of plays away from winning the whole thing, but I feel like we can take it to the next level.”
Crabtree wants to lead by example and is doing it by pushing himself harder in 49ers offseason workouts.
“It’s only going to make me better,” Crabtree said. “I got a lot to prove, that’s how I feel, even if people don’t think that. I’m just ready to go out here and get with the rest of the offense – the offensive line, the wide receivers, the new addition,
Crabtree considers himself fortunate to have worked with so many quality receivers during his four seasons with the 49ers. As a rookie, Crabtree leaned on Isaac Bruce for advice and did the same last year from Randy Moss.
Crabtree has been doing the same thing this year with Boldin and all of the 49ers wideouts for that matter.
“The 49ers have had the greatest receivers in the game here,” Crabtree said. “From Jerry Rice to Terrell Owens to Isaac Bruce to Anquan Boldin – I feel like the best go through San Francisco and I got some big shoes to fill.”
There’s greater expectations on Crabtree and the entire 49ers offense following a strong conclusion to the 2012 season. Crabtree understands the focus on the team’s improved passing game, but is still focused on playing his brand of football which features strong-handed catches and aggressive moves after the reception.
“A lot of people try to compare you to so and so and this guy, but I feel like I’m myself,” Crabtree said. “I’m Mike Crabtree and I really found my identity and I go with what I know.”
Crabtree was more than clutch for San Francisco last season. He caught 30 passes on third-down, tied for fourth-most in the NFL. He also caught four, third-down passes in two different regular season games.
But even after his clutch receptions and a breakout year, Crabtree can’t help but look for more information. He wants to become the best football player he can be and that’s why he studies every wide receiver on the 49ers roster when they’re running routes at practice.
“I take a little bit from everybody,” Crabtree said. “ I can steal something from anyone. I just watch the game of football, I’m a football junkie, for sure."
So much so, Crabtree continues to find ways to make his appearance standout on the field. Crabtree’s game shoes have garnered a lot of attention in his four seasons in San Francisco.
The 2013 season should be no different.
“My shoe game is going to be crazy this year,” the stylish receiver said. “My shoe game matches my personality; it matches me, my skills. Every time I play, I’ve got to look good. Look good to feel good and of course I’m going to play good.”
The 49ers wideout was exposed to Sanders’ flamboyant persona during his days growing up in Dallas, Texas. Crabtree said the influence rubbed off and now he applies the same pregame approach to his profession with the 49ers. Eye-catching shoes remain a major part of Crabtree's pregame routine.
“It makes football fun,” he said. “It takes it all the way back to pee-wee league when you couldn’t wait to get your spat on your shoes, put your stripes on your towel. It’s part of football – looking sweet.
“A lot of guys don’t think they’re supposed to that, or they don’t even care about it. They were probably those kids with no gloves on, looking to tackle somebody. I was more about trying to make a play and look good and feel good.
“I was just different. Everybody’s different and I just like doing it. It’s part of football, I love it.”
Crabtree can’t help but relate things to his youth football days. He’s currently holding signups for his second annual “Michael Crabtree Football Mini Camp.”
San Francisco’s top wideout is expecting many teammates and friends in the NFL to help with the two-day camp at Duncanville High School. He only named Miami Dolphins wideout Mike Wallace as a camp instructor, but promised there will be 15-20 well-known players around to help with the kids.
Crabtree never attended football camps as a kid, but was motivated to create one for the youth of his hometown in Dallas. Crabtree attended former Larry Johnson’s basketball camp and appreciated the years he spent at Johnson’s Recreation Center in Dallas.
The former NBA player's connection to his hometown motivated Crabtree to give back to his community.
“It’s going to be something for the kids, something I never had that growing up,” Crabtree said of his upcoming camp for kids.
“To give back like that, that’s a plus,” Crabtree said. “You’re really showing kids love, having a real impact on the neighborhood.”
If Crabtree can reach his goals with the 49ers, he’ll be giving back to the Bay Area in more ways than one.