CANTON, Ohio (AP) -- When he was young and prone to daydreaming, Shawn Crable saw himself having a professional football career that ultimately would lead to great things.
"I thought I would be in the NFL and come back to Canton and get my yellow jacket (for the Pro Football Hall of Fame). That was my dream," Crable said.
For a while it seemed more rooted in reality than fantasy. A standout linebacker at Massillon, Crable went on to become a two-time, second-team All-Big Ten selection and a four-year letterman at the University of Michigan. Crable's chance at professional success, if not stardom, seemed less a pipe dream at the end of his college days.
However, after being selected in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft by the New England Patriots, Crable's path to pro success was derailed early by injuries. By the end of the 2010 season, he was out of the league.
But just because his pro football aspirations were curtailed -- Crable gave the Canadian Football League a shot earlier in 2012, but he and the Hamilton Tiger Cats cut ties in the summer -- didn't mean great things weren't in store for him.
Now, instead of the football field, Crable is achieving success in the neighborhoods of Stark County that he once called home.
It's been about a month since Crable was hired as the parent engagement coordinator at the Early Childhood Resource Center in Canton. In his new role, Crable coordinates parenting education programs and training on the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
Crable was working in a factory in Barberton but also interning with Job and Family Services in Canton before interviewing for the position at the ECRC. It was a position he seemed to be preparing for most of his life, even as football took up most of his energy.
"I did tons of speaking engagements to at-risk youth, I did a spell over at Massillon Middle School where I worked with the youth there, I've done some speaking at prisons, for Goodwill and United Way," Crable said. "It seems that as I've went along it's been pretty much the grand theme of what I'm doing without really noticing it."
The fact Crable managed to not become a statistic and instead escape from the rough neighborhoods he now visits regularly gives him a unique perspective in his current role. Crable was in foster homes until he left Massillon for the University of Michigan after graduation.
"I'm a product of this community. I'm originally from Canton and grew up in what's now called Skyline Terrace, which used to be Highland Park," he said. "I was in foster care from the time I was 5 years old. I was with Stark County Human Services until I was 18 and went off to college. I still consider my foster mom, Ella Kirkland, my mother.
"When I saw this opportunity and I talked to Mary (Brady, of the ECRC) about it, I said 'I was that kid.' We were eating at some of the homeless shelters, we were in the domestic violence shelters ... I've seen all of these things first-hand, so I know what it does to a kid's mind and mentality."
Now 28, married and with five children, Crable's desire to give back and affect change in the community made an early impression on ECRC executive director Scott Hasselman. Crable's past lends instant credibility to his current message in Hasselman's mind.
"Shawn's lived it. He had a rough upbringing and he's made a success out of himself," Hasselman said. "In the interview what I recognized was his wish to give it back. He has a great perspective on what the job entails and how he wants to go about implementing the strategies.
"He worked hard to get where he was at. That work ethic and determination, you can see that in a potential candidate, and that's what probably impressed us the most. Shawn is very articulate and he's very involved in the community and wants to give back. This is something that fit with his own personal mission."
While he's no longer on the football field, Crable still finds himself calling on lessons learned playing under coaches Rick Shepas at Massillon and Lloyd Carr at Michigan. Helping everyone he comes into contact with may be his ultimate goal, but Crable knows that not every individual may initially be receptive to change.
"Persistence is one of the things that I call on. I also call on having a short memory," Crable said. "You play football, you get knocked down one play and then the next play you're knocking someone else down.
"You can be told no and that's one of the most disheartening things about doing what I do. I really believe in what we're putting out there and the ability we have to help people with the things we can offer them."
Even while he may encounter occasional resistance, the most important thing in Crable's mind is having an avenue to reach out to individuals in need. If he can deliver his message enough times, he believes that eventually it will reach its intended target and have the desired effect. He knows it did for him as a youngster.
"The thing I tell people now is, if you're paying attention you'll get a lot of good wisdom and a lot of good things said to you along the way that can help steer you down the right path," Crable said.
"I was very fortunate that I kept my ears open."
Information from: The Independent, http://www.indeonline.com