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Crosby remains Raiders’ inspiration: ‘It’s about being the best’

Every morsel of information is paramount leading up to the NFL draft. Secrets are protected at all costs.

But at least one cold, hard fact has emerged for the Raiders leading into the first round Thursday: Edge rusher Maxx Crosby is revered by this year’s prospects.

That’s definitely true for the defensive linemen coming out, who view Crosby as a standard bearer. His name has been brought up throughout the draft process from the Senior Bowl to scouting combine.

“I emulate my game off Maxx Crosby,” said UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu, a projected first-round pick.

Said Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy: “Playing next to a guy like Maxx Crosby would be crazy. I’ve never played with a guy like that.”

Crosby, a three-time Pro Bowler and the Raiders’ team leader, appreciates every word.

The 26-year-old is the living embodiment of resiliency on and off the field. He’s overcome struggles with alcohol and drug addiction and fought through injuries to produce 52 career sacks. His film is as dominant as any defensive end in the NFL.

It’s no surprise he’s made an impact on the next generation. But for him, it’s a humbling feeling.

“It’s incredible,” Crosby said April 15, the first day of the Raiders offseason program.

Crosby was wearing a shirt honoring his hero Kobe Bryant as he spoke. Bryant’s life sparked the competitive fire of countless others. Crosby hopes to do the same.

“(Bryant) said the main thing about being legendary is inspiring the youth and bringing people along and showing people the way,” Crosby said. “And for me, that’s always been in the back of my head is inspiring others. Not only my teammates but other people around the league and coming into the league. For me seeing that, it’s like the ultimate respect. And I take a lot of pride in that because I talk about it all the time.”

Crosby backs up his words with action.

It’s not just what he does for 17 games on the field. He’s a fixture at the Raiders’ practice facility in Henderson every day, no matter the time of year. He often arrives at 6 a.m. during the offseason and leaves at 2 p.m. after completing a rigorous routine.

“And for me, it’s not just about being the best at my position. It’s about being the best. Period,” Crosby said.

The Raiders joke at their facility about whether Crosby ever takes time off. He laughs right along with everyone, knowing his methods aren’t normal. But the greatness he envisions for himself and the Raiders means he won’t accept anything less.

“There really isn’t balance in the world that I live in right now,” Crosby said. “I mean, I’m obsessed.”

Crosby’s passion led to dramatic changes four years ago.

He checked himself into rehab to deal with his addictions. He understood his lifestyle was out of control.

“None of this would be possible if I didn’t clean up my life,” Crosby said. “Instead of recovering from a long night or going out and doing this and wasting time with friends who really aren’t there for me at the end of the day, I’ve got the right people in my life, the greatest tight-knit circle I could possibly ask for and I chase greatness in every single way of my life every day.”

Crosby’s work ethic has led teammates to follow his example. The Raiders’ facility has been bustling this offseason. Players are eager to build on the late-season momentum they created under coach Antonio Pierce.

“That inspired me to stick around here for the majority of the offseason and to encourage other guys to get in the building,” linebacker Robert Spillane said. “Free meals, free workouts, like you get to be around the boys. So, I was really proud of the guys that did stick around and showed that they’re putting in that work.”

Crosby and Pierce are cut from the same cloth. Pierce, once he earned the coaching job full-time, challenged Crosby to be even more inclusive with his work habits.

“There’s a lot of really good players, but the great ones bring others up,” Crosby said. “And for me, I took that personal.”

Crosby’s dedication led to the Raiders’ full building for the start of the offseason program. It was the product of all the work he put in behind the scenes for months. He served as inspiration for his teammates, as well as the next generation of NFL players to come.

“We wanted to be here and work together and just continue building what we already started,” Crosby said. “I feel like this team has all the potential. We have more than enough talent to go out there and achieve great things, but all that is bull unless you go out there and do it yourself. So, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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