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From child slave to running free: Rising Grove football star overcomes childhood slave trade

Posted at 12:00 PM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 10:57:04-05

GROVE, Okla. — Grove High School's Emmanuel Crawford is an established rising star for the school's football program, but to Crawford, it's more than a sport.

He's the school's all-time leading rusher, racking up 2,400 yards and 43 touchdowns in 2021 alone.

Crawford's life began 6,000 miles away from Grove. He was born in Ghana, where he was sold into child slavery at three years old. Crawford became one of an estimated 21,000 child slaves working the fishing trade on the African country's Lake Volta.

"I got sold into slavery when I was three," Crawford says.

"A lot of families in Ghana will sell their oldest kids so they can have enough money to provide for themselves and the siblings that they have."

At four years old, the Touch A Life foundation organized a rescue that saved his life.

He received shelter and schooling from the foundation. Meanwhile, friends of the family who saved him were hoping to adopt a child. Stan and Audrey Crawford were shown a video of Emmanuel, and knew they wanted to welcome him into their family.

Nine months later, Emmanuel was officially a Crawford.

"I haven't had a moment quite as joyful as that in my life," Crawford says about coming home to the United States.

"A moment definitely where it was like, there's a greater power that put me here to be with this family that loves me this much."

Stan and Audrey Crawford raised their new son like any other child, alongside his brothers and sisters.

Emmanuel's talent and instincts drew him to football, where he has now been tearing up Friday nights. Crawford hopes his story can serve as motivation for others, saying God can give everyone a second chance at life, just like him.

"Sadly, a lot of them don't get out like I did," Emmanuel says. "That's really driven me and pushed me, because God has given me a second chance at life."

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