Knoxville Native Andrew Craig Grateful for Scholarship - FreakNotes

Knoxville Native Andrew Craig Grateful for Scholarship

UT Sports Information

One day last February after football workouts, redshirt junior tight end Andrew Craig got a text message that he will never forget.
 
“We were having some winter competitions and I got a text from Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt afterwards telling me to come to his office,” said Craig. “He explained to me how they had an extra scholarship available and he thought I was worthy of it.”
 
Following three years as a walk-on, Pruitt awarded the Knoxville, Tenn., native a scholarship.
 
“I was surprised and excited,” said Craig. “I grew up in Knoxville, so it was dream come true to play here and be put on scholarship. It was a great experience for me and my whole family.”
 
Newly minted as a scholarship football player on the Vols’ roster, Craig picked up the phone to tell those that mattered most to him.
 
“When I called my dad, he was out playing golf and he couldn’t wait to tell his golf buddies who he was with,” Craig said. “I think my mom was kind of trying to hold back tears and it kind of made me emotional as well. We were holding back tears at that point.”
 
Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano remembers vividly the moment Craig returned to the locker room after being awarded the scholarship.
 
“Everybody is very excited,” said Guarantano. “Everybody sees that Andrew Craig is a great worker and has done a lot for this team. We are very excited for him. When we got the news, everyone was hollering and jumping around him. It was a great thing for him and a great thing for our program … It was great for him and definitely great for his family. His family are big Tennessee people and we are happy he’s on scholarship and one of us right now.”
 
A member of the scout team, Craig saw action in one game in 2017 and 11 games in 2018 as reserve tight end, fullback and special teams contributor.
 
“I knew that it might have been possible. I got to play in all but one of our games last year,” said Craig. “I knew there was always a chance. For it to actually happen, you’re never really ready for it and overcome with emotion.”
 
Craig viewed his role on Rocky Top as that of a selfless individual. His job wasn’t to chase playing time or fame, it was to make those around him better every day that he could.
 
“When I came in as a freshman, I knew my role wasn’t going to be to go out there and play in every game,” said Craig. “My role was to be on scout team and make my teammates better. By doing that, it made me a better player.”
 
As a kid who spent his Saturdays at Neyland Stadium, there simply was no other choice for Craig than to don the Orange and White.
 
“Growing up as a Tennessee fan I knew this is what I wanted to do,” said Craig. “Earning the scholarship was something that I was excited about, because I was able to go out and really earn something.
 
“If you set your goals high than you can definitely achieve them with hard work. I knew from a young age that this is something I kind of wanted to do. And to play football here would be an awesome experience and it has been. Being able to actually get out there on Saturdays in Neyland in front of all of our fans has been a dream come true.”
 
This Saturday Craig will head to Neyland Stadium with a different title than he’s had in the past, but his mindset won’t change.
 
“It will be the same old same old, just business as usual,” he said. “I’m still the same person.”

Player Quotes

Redshirt Junior QB Jarrett Guarantano

On tight end Andrew Craig earning a scholarship:
“Everybody is very excited. Everybody sees that Andrew Craig is a great worker and he’s done a lot for this team. We’re very excited for him. When we got the news, I think everybody was hollering and jumping around him, so it was a great thing for us and a great thing for the program.”

On the opportunity to show how far the offense has improved:
“I don’t think we kind of look towards last year so much in the sense of, we’re not thinking about who do we do well against? Who didn’t we do well against, in that sense? I think we’re just going into this weekend hoping that we prepare well and we’re hoping to execute at a high level. I think if we do that, we can put up some points.”

On where he expects to see the most improvement on the field this season:
“All-around team speed. I think that we’re a lot faster. I think that we’re smarter as an offense as well, so I hope to see less MAs [missed assignments] on the field and less MAs on the tape on Sunday.”

On how game planning has been different with new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney:
“He really gets deep down into the details. The whole last week we actually had the chance to start looking at them [Georgia State] and start to prepare but going into that he really goes deep down into those things. He really elaborates on what he thinks and we he feels that we should be doing on the field. Whenever we’re watching tape, he’s able to put in input on how to get better, so that’s really helpful.”

On hos advice to the players getting ready to play their first game at Tennessee:
“Depth breathe. Prepare. Just go into the game with a free mind and just play ball. Don’t think about it too much. We’ve been practicing really hard over the summer and spring time, so just let it all out [and] just have some fun.”

On his overall growth as a player:
“I think that I’m a better football player than last year. I think that comes with a lot though. I think coach (Chris) Weinke did a great job with myself and the other quarterbacks talking about footwork and progression reads, and just knowing where to go with the ball. Obviously, coach (Jim) Chaney’s offense has helped me do so and I’m excited to see what I can do during the season and what the offense can do.”

Redshirt Senior OLB Darrell Taylor

On who has stepped up and taken leadership of the team:
“The outside linebackers, inside linebackers and the secondary are all stepping up and making sure the young guys are staying on top of everything as well as making sure we are communicating.”

On freshman LB Henry To’o To’o being able to lead the defense:
“I think he is far along, but I also think that most of the inside linebackers are far along as well, staying late with the coaches and making sure they know what they are supposed to do on the field.”

On how he feels he has improved throughout camp:
“I think I have improved as far as being more consistent, staying the course and making sure my teammates are improving as well. I think that we have all been doing a great job staying consistent and making sure we are doing the right things every day.”

On how he has improved his game from last season:
“I am more physical in the run game and have a better understanding of what plays I’m going to be in. My technique has improved along with knowing my assignments.”

On the transition from camp to season:
“It’s a big change. Camp starts to take a toll on your body and transitioning to the season allows you to take better care of yourself as you prepare for games.”

Junior OLB Deandre Johnson

On what kind of camp he felt he had:
“I feel like this camp, I just had to focus on my weight, get in the weight room and perfecting my craft by learning the ins and outs of my position.”

On how much he feels he has improved as a pass rusher since last season:
“Starting with my strength, my speed was always a strength of mine, but focusing on my weight, upper body strength and changing my rush up a little bit, learning the angles of pass rushing and watching film.”

On how big of an adjustment it was moving to a 3-4 defense:
“I was a guy that had my hand down pretty much my whole high school career. When I got here, it was the same thing, my hand in the dirt. I just had to learn the nuances of the new defense and learning how to play with my hand up, playing faster and knowing what I have to do.”

On what moment he realized things were beginning to click for him:
“I would say in the spring. I found my groove around practice eight or nine. I started to get more confident. That was the biggest thing for me, just getting back confidence in what I’m doing.”

On if he feels that Coach Pruitt has emphasized having fun:
“(While) playing football, you most definitely want to have fun. That’s what we do it for at the end of the day. He’s been preaching that. Go out there and have fun, play your best, play hard, play smart. That’s been working out for us.”

Redshirt Junior TE Andrew Craig

On how he found out about his scholarship:
“We were having some winter competitions and I got a text from Coach Pruitt afterwards telling me to come to his office. He explained to me how they had an extra scholarship available and he thought I was worthy of it.”

On his reaction to receiving the scholarship:
“I was surprised and excited. I grew up in Knoxville, so it was dream come true to play here and be put on scholarship. It was a great experience for me and my whole family.”

On deciding to walk on at The University of Tennessee:
“Like I said, it was a dream come true to play at the University of Tennessee. I had some other FCS offers, but I was sold once Coach (Butch) Jones and his staff gave me the opportunity to come here. Everything else was out the door at that point because growing up as a Tennessee fan, I knew this is what I wanted to do. Earning the scholarship was something that I was excited about because I was able to go out and really earn something.”

On when he first knew he could compete at this level:
“Coming in as a freshman, the most important thing was just knowing my role. When I first came in, I knew my role wasn’t going to be to play every game. My role was to be on the scout team and help the other players improve. Competing in camp also helped me realize that I could play at this level.”

On what the common fan does not know about walk-ons:
“You always hear about the other players all the time, but you don’t really hear about what goes on behind the scenes or about all the other people that have an impact on the team. Our scout team has done a tremendous job giving us different looks and helping us prepare. It seems like you go unnoticed, but you really are being noticed by the coaches.”

Redshirt Senior OL Brandon Kennedy

On how the team has learned to improve from last season:
“The main thing is that we left last year in the past and are starting this year with a blank slate.”

On if he views the game differently after being out with an injury:
“Most definitely. Once you see that the game can be taken away, you start to take it more seriously.”

On how the offensive line needs to improve before the Georgia State game:
“The biggest thing going into game one is playing clean as far as missed assignments and being on the same page.”

On the tempo and sense of urgency as the season approaches:
“Since we’ve gotten to the last days of camp the sense of urgency has increased. Coach Pruitt, coach Chaney and the rest of the staff are all pushing us to work harder.”

On his role while he was out with an injury:
“I focused on helping guys with the mental aspect of the game, such as knowing their assignments and certain things to look for.”

On QB Jarrett Guarantano making calls at the line of scrimmage:
“Jarrett has worked really hard, so when he makes a call, I go with it. All the quarterbacks have done a great job communicating on offense and communication is key.”

Junior PK Brent Cimaglia

On how this year’s fall camp was different from last year’s:
“With the new coaches that coach Pruitt’s brought in, it’s a different atmosphere. It’s been awesome. Each coach is willing to help everybody. It’s just a different atmosphere.”

On what his kicking range is:
“It just depends on the day and weather conditions. I’m confident enough that coach will put me somewhere and I know that he knows my range pretty well. Wherever he puts me, I’m going to try my hardest and try to hit it.”

On what he does to mentally prepare before a big kick:
“I exclude myself from everything, block out the noise, block out all the hype and just go to the net and do some form work and get ready mentally.”

On how he has seen Jeremy Pruitt grow in his relationship with players:
“He’s done a very good job. When he came in, he was still a players’ coach. Now, nothing’s really changed. He’s building a relationship with everybody, which is awesome.”

On how close he feels the program is to turning the corner and how he can tell:
“So close. Our players have gone out every day and worked our hearts out. The coaching staff has done everything. We’re very close. The way we came out for camp this year, we all had a chip on our shoulder and we were all ready. With the new guys coming in, the freshmen, they stepped up and all the seniors and the older kids became leaders.”