As a professional athlete, Bo Jackson was nationally known in two major sports and his popularity magnified with his long running series of Nike commercials.
Pat Sullivan might not be considered as the best player to grace the plains, but he's widely considered to be the best quarterback at Auburn. He was the first Auburn player to win the Heisman Trophy and he still holds many of Auburn's passing records despite the fact he last suited up well over 30 years ago.
When it comes to an individual player's importance to his team's offensive production, former Auburn quarterback Dameyune Craig corners the market. Jackson and Sullivan were fortunate enough to have played on some great teams, but Craig made Auburn a better team.
It's been nearly a decade since Dameyune Craig was behind center, but he still possesses many school records. He currently holds the record for most pass attempts (403), most completions (216) and passing yardage (3,277) in one season. His average of 273.1 yards passing per game in 1997 remains at the top of the list. His 394 yards passing against Mississippi State is the second-highest single-game total in AU history behind 416 by Ben Leard vs. Georgia in 1999. Craig also holds the school record for consecutive games (13) with at least one touchdown pass.
No other Auburn quarterback had more 300-yard passing games (six) and he still holds the most 200-yard passing games in one season (12). His 499 individual plays during the 1997 season are the most by any Auburn player and his career number of touchdowns responsible for (58) is second behind Pat Sullivan. Craig holds three of the top five all-time total yards gained during one game, which included three games of over 400 yards in total offense.
Dameyune Craig was never the most accurate passer or efficient quarterback at Auburn, but he was the master of making the big play.
Pass Plays of 30-yards or More:
Jason Campbell: 52 in 856 attempts
Dameyune Craig: 42 in 782 attempts
Patrick Nix: 34 in 656 attempts
Ben Leard: 28 in 592 attempts
Brandon Cox: 14 in 307 attempts
Reggie Slack: 25 in 585 attempts
Stan White: 26 in 1,231 attempts
With the lack of a running game during the 1997 season, Craig's ability to make the big play was essential for Auburn to have any success on offense. Craig connected on 28 pass plays of 30-yards or more, which accounted for 30 percent of Auburn's total offense in 1997. This was the highest percentage of big-play accountability over the past 19 seasons.
During the 1997 campaign, Auburn had at least two plays of 30-yards or more in 10 of its 12 games, excluding the bowl game. This was the highest number of at least two "big plays" per game over the last 19 seasons.
Craig's true worthiness is found in what he accomplished with so little offensive support around him. During his two-year stint as the starting quarterback, Craig accounted for 71 percent of Auburn's total offense. The second highest percentage behind Craig was Sullivan's 54 percent from 1969 through 1971. Nix (1994-1995) was the only other Auburn quarterback to account for over 50 percent of the team's offense.
Quarterback's Percentage of Total Yardage:
Dameyune Craig 1996-1997: 71.4%
Pat Sullivan 1969-1971: 53.6%
Patrick Nix 1994-1995: 51.3%
Stan White 1990-1993: 49.6%
Jason Campbell 2003-2004: 48.2%
Reggie Slack 1988-1989: 47.3%
Ben Leard 1999-2000: 45.6%
Brandon Cox 2005: 45.1%
During the 1998 season, Ben Leard and Gabe Gross combined for 66.5 percent of Auburn's offensive yardage and 76.5 percent of the team's offensive touchdowns. Despite having a better defense in 1998 compared to 1997, the 1998 squad finished the season 3-8. Over the last 30 years, I cannot recall the loss of one Auburn player which had such a devastating effect. In fairness to Leard and Gross, both quarterbacks were first time starters, playing behind an offensive line riddled by injury, but it doesn't take away from the magnitude of Craig's success.
Percentage of Touchdowns (Run & Pass):
Dameyune Craig 1996-1997: 60.3%
Pat Sullivan 1969-1971: 55.5%
Ben Leard 1999-2000: 46.7%
Stan White 1990-1993: 44.0%
Patrick Nix 1994-1995: 37.8%
Jason Campbell 2003-2004: 36.2%
Reggie Slack 1988-1989: 33.8%
Brandon Cox 2005: 31.9%
Only Jason Campbell (25) had more touchdown passes of over 20 yards than Craig (23) during their respective careers.
Of the nine Auburn quarterbacks who have thrown for 2,000 yards in one season, Craig had the worst running game during his two years as the starting quarterback.
Average yards rushing per game:
Brandon Cox 2004-2005: 203.8
Reggie Slack 1987-1989: 194.8
Patrick Nix 1994-1995: 194.4
Jeff Burger 1986-1987: 188.2
Pat Sullivan 1969-1971: 186.1
Jason Campbell 2001-2004: 179.8
Stan White 1990-1993: 171.5
Ben Leard 1998-2000: 120.9
Dameyune Craig 1996-1997: 113.8
During Craig's 23 regular season starts, Auburn was held under 100-yards rushing on twelve occasions.
Quarterback Ratings With Running Game Under 100-yards Rushing:
Ben Leard: 145.5
Dameyune Craig: 121.5
Patrick Nix: 118.1
Reggie Slack: 110.3
Jason Campbell: 109.6
Pat Sullivan: 103.9
Jeff Burger: 100.3
Brandon Cox: 100.2
Stan White: 95.0
Despite having the worst running game, Craig posted the second highest rating behind Ben Leard.
Craig brought excitement to the Auburn offense.
During Craig's tenure as the starter, Auburn's running game eclipsed the 150-yard mark on six occasions. Like any other quarterback, his numbers improved with a strong running attack.
Quarterback Rating With Running Game Over 150-yards:
Jason Campbell: 156.8
Dameyune Craig: 152.2
Reggie Slack: 143.0
Patrick Nix: 137.4
Brandon Cox: 135.9
Pat Sullivan: 133.7
Jeff Burger: 133.4
Ben Leard: 127.4
Stan White: 113.9
Craig's "big play" ability was never needed more than during the 1997 season. In comparison with other Auburn teams, the 1997 offense finished 10th over the last 14 seasons in average yards per play on first down. That group finished 11th over the last 13 seasons in percentage of "three and out" series and eighth over the last 16 years in third down conversions. Craig led Auburn to a 10-3 season and the Tigers' first trip to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. This was truly an amazing performance when you consider the 1997 team played the fifth toughest schedule in school history since 1951. One can only imagine what Auburn could have accomplished with Craig and a balanced attack.
He was a fiery competitor and an emotional leader on and off the field. He left Auburn with no championship rings, but he played like one throughout his career. He raised the bar of performance for other quarterbacks to follow and he continues to be a part of the game as the new quarterback coach at Tuskegee University after coaching special teams for the Miami Dolphins.
Coach Pat Dye once said, "Bo Jackson gave Auburn the ability to play with anyone in the country" and the same can be said of Craig. The year after Pat Sullivan left Auburn, the "72 Amazins" posted a 10-1-0 record. The year after Bo Jackson left, Auburn went 10-2-0 in 1986. The year after Dameyune Craig left Auburn, the Tigers collapsed to 3-8-0 in 1998. He was clearly a "field general" by definition and will always be considered one of Auburn's greatest quarterbacks.