He has the same answer every time.
“People will ask me how did Auburn go from 3-9 to 12-2,” said Craig, who was the speaker at the annual Friends of Scouting Luncheon held Thursday at the Community Health Systems Activities Center in Jasper. “I tell them, ‘I don’t know what happened because I wasn’t there when they were 3-9.’”
Craig, a former Auburn standout quarterback, is coming off his first season as the Tigers’ co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach under head coach Gus Malzahn. His first year on the Plains was a memorable one as the Tigers came within seconds of capturing the BCS Championship. Florida State — where Craig had spent 2010-12 as an assistant coach — edged the Tigers 34-31, scoring the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds on the clock.
Craig took time from his busy offseason schedule to make the trip to Jasper on Thursday.
“Any time you have the opportunity to make a positive influence on young kids, you need to do it. As a coach, our job is very time consuming and very demanding. To take time out of your schedule to do something like this, is difficult, but worthwhile,” Craig said. “It’s a great opportunity to come share my story and talk about Auburn football. Any time, I can get Auburn’s name out there, I’m honored.”
Craig spoke to Thursday’s crowd about growing up poor in Pritchard — located in south Alabama.
He used football to pave a path of success.
He won state titles at Blount High School before heading to Auburn. After his collegiate career wrapped up in 1997, Craig played for the Carolina Panthers in the NFL for four seasons.
Once his playing career ended, Craig made the transition to coaching. He spent time at coaching staffs at LSU, the Miami Dolphins, Tuskegee and South Alabama before landing on Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher’s staff in 2010.
Malzahn coaxed Craig, 39, back to Auburn in January of last year.
“It was tough to leave Florida State,” Craig said. “I knew what I had at Florida State. I didn’t know what I had at Auburn. Coach Fisher asked me if I wanted to play teams like LSU and Alabama every year. At the end of the day, I wanted to be in the toughest conference in the nation.
“It was a humbling experience to come from Florida State, where I had a bunch of success on and off the field. I had presided over the No. 1 and No. 2 recruiting classes in the nation. I walked into Alabama high schools and boys would say, ‘We may come see you in two weeks. First we have to go to Ole Miss and South Carolina. Then we may come see you.’ I was thinking, ‘What is going on here?’ It was a big difference. We’ve been able to change that.”
With Auburn, coming off a 12-2 record and an SEC Championship, Craig said his goal is to put the best product on the field year after year.
“First of all, I don’t go into the season trying to top last season. I think you have to look for consistency. You want to maintain a high level of play. I’m not telling my guys to be better than they were last year, I’m asking them to evaluate what they did last year and let’s see how they can get better,” Craig said.
“We aren’t worried about the 3-9 season or the 12-2 season. We aren’t going to be worried about what our record can be. We are just trying to be the best football team we can be. When you do that, the wins will come.”