A Davenport, Iowa native, Roger Craig said he knew he was going to be a Nebraska Cornhusker because his older brother Curtis was a wingback in Lincoln from 1975 to 1977.
“I used to watch him play and was intrigued and infatuated with the fans of Nebraska,” Craig recalled. "They captivated me by the way they were so supportive of the program and how much they loved the team and players. As a kid, I wanted to be a part of that, to hear that roar when I score a touchdown or have a long run.”
Craig visited other schools, including the University of California, Arkansas (coached by Lou Holtz), Iowa, and Iowa State, whose head coach at that time was Earle Bruce. “But in the back of my mind I always knew Nebraska was going to be my spot,” Craig said.
Besides his brother playing for the Big Red, another reason Craig liked the Huskers came about when head coach Tom Osborne recruited a teammate.
“Jamie Williams was a senior in high school when I was a junior. I broke my leg the first game of the season so I was out the rest of the year. Out of all the coaches that came to recruit Jamie, there was only one coach who said that he’ll come back to get me…that was Coach Osborne. I respected that,” Craig said.
Osborne liked Craig’s running style. “It was a style of running that defenders hated to see,” Craig said. “You have those knees and elbows coming at you and you don’t want to hit that. I developed it by running hurdles in high school and in college. My high school coach would always yell at me to get my knees up.”
Craig had a lot of pressure to stay in the state of Iowa. “People were mean to me, saying I deserted my state by going to Nebraska. It was really tough, all the pressure I was under. But I didn’t know anything about Iowa’s head coach Hayden Fry. He came in as a fast-talking guy from Texas, and I just didn’t feel comfortable with him. I knew the coaches from Nebraska, so I felt better signing with them,” Craig said.
“If I didn’t go to Nebraska, I probably would have gone to Cal. Their head coach, Roger Theder, really had a plan for me. But I liked my journey at Nebraska; it really made me grow up. I had really good coaches and players around me.”
Craig lettered at Nebraska from 1979 to 1982. His best year came in 1981, when the All-Big Eight performer rushed for 1,060 yards while sharing time with fellow I-back Mike Rozier, who rushed for 943.
“It was like Craig James and Eric Dickerson at SMU. Mike Rozier and I shared time together; it was a two-back system,” Craig explained. “If I had a great game, then I would start, and if he had a great game, he would start, that is how we did it. They rotated us with plays.”
Because of this Craig never gained All-American honors at NU, but he did make a name for himself as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, having an All-Pro career and winning three Super Bowls.
Roger Craig (NU Media Relations)
Want to read more stories like this one? Subscribe to Big Red Report magazine and Big Red Report.com. Click Here
Shane Gilster is the Editor of Big Red Report Magazine. His stories focus mainly on catching up with former Huskers and examining Nebraska athletic history.