Craddock Overcomes Odds to be Nation's Best

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Maryland kicker Brad Craddock wants to come up big in the Foster Farms Bowl.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- As the Terps took the podium Dec. 27 at the Hotel Nikko in downtown San Francisco for their opening joint presser with Stanford, Randy Edsall beamed about the journey all three of his player reps at the event -- Brad Craddock, Cole Farrand and C.J. Brown -- took in overcoming adversity to be here today, here this week in San Francisco, here playing for Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl against the Cardinal.

A somewhat emotional Edsall touched on an anecdote that the usually private Terps' head man doesn't delve into much, especially publically, about how his star junior kicker Craddock, fresh off winning the Lou Groza Award this month as the nation's top kicker, nearly gave up the game after his freshman year meltdown at N.C. State. That's when the rookie greenhorn from Down Under, who came to Maryland first as a punter, missed both an extra point, but even more damming, a 33-yard field goal in a crushing loss in a game Maryland was up big early but blew badly in the second half. Things didn't get much better a week later, when Craddock missed a 35-yarder at Boston College, which pushed him to the bench in favor of freshman walk-on Brendan Magistro.

Craddock would go home at season's end, and he told his mother, Leonie, that he didn't want to return.

"After I landed, I was home for about five days and I told mom I didn't want to go back," Craddock said. "But the team, that was a big part of it, not letting them down. And not letting myself down. And putting together all the people that put so much time into me getting here, and all for me to just say no? Well, that sounded pretty selfish."

Thank goodness for Maryland he had the change of heart.

Maryland's first Groza nominee and recipient, Craddock enjoyed a transcendent 2014 season, hitting 18-of-19 field goals, including a long of 57, with his only miss coming in the regular season finale against Rutgers, that from 54 yards, which he pushed just wide left. Craddock also picked up first team All American honors (FWAA), won the Big Ten Bakken-Anderson Kicker of the Year Award, and to top it off made the Big Ten All-Academic Team as well.

Craddock is now Maryland's all-time leader in field goal percentage (81.7 percent) and has 11 made field goals from 40-plus yards. He also holds the UMD record for consecutive made field goals with 24. And to think the Terps still have another year with him, and that it all started with a simple-mail from Craddock to Terps assistant recruiting coordinator Ryan Steinberg, one Maryland happened to respond to when most didn't, seeking an oppotunity to come kick at Maryland.

"From there on it just kept getting better," Craddock said of his epiphany, not to mention the fact he is the hardest working Terp and serves as a mentor to several fellow Terps, a model on and off the field for Edsall and the program now. "I wouldn't change it for the world now. I love it here, and I will probably end up living here for awhile now."

The NFL is definitely in Craddock's future, while the good news for UMD fans is he confirmed this week that he will be back for his senior season after the monster season he just enjoyed as the nation's most accurate kicker.

But still, home is where his heart is, and with his family who he will reunite with soon after this week's bowl game for winter break.

Australia was in the news recently, but not good news, as a crazed gunman took two hostages in a Sydney cafe this month before killing two and losing his life after a day-long standoff that rocked the normally peaceful nation. Craddock is always in constant contact with his parents, as well as sister back home, and ready to hop a flight back to his native country at anytime.

"It really did," Craddock said of how it startled him and his family. "I did not hear about it until the day after as I was caught up in exams. And my parents were about 2 1/2 hours away. But I talked to my mom that next day, and she talked to me about it and what was going on there. But it was so rare for something like that to happen in Australia. But I knew if something were to happen they could get ahold of me, knew where I was at, and what was happening with them there at all times."

Craddock's parents had just been in the States for nine weeks leading up the season finale against Rutgers, but extended their stay through the Groza Award ceremony in Florida before Christmas. That was a seminal event for the family, his parents along with Matt Stover joining him in Orlando for the award. Since then, after his phone died the night of the ceremony becuase of so many texts and messages, he has received some from even grade school teachers back home that have reached out to offer congratulations.

"It's funny, I haven't even had time really to reflect on it [the award] yet," Craddock said of the Groza. "I got back from the award ceremony, had exams, and then we're flying out here to play a game. I guess I will reflect when I get home because right now I got more kicks to make. That's what's important. I can reflect later."

For this week, Craddock has been booming his kicks at Laney College in Oakland at the Terps practice facility in slight winds, while tonight (ever the student) he was reaching out to former Terps placekicker and current San Diego Chargers standout Nick Novak for pointers at Levi's Stadium.

"He kicked a game-winner there two weeks ago, so I will talk to him and see how his thought process was," Craddock said.

Craddock said Stover, his mentor back home and the former Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl kicker, gave him some names of other kickers who have booted in the stadium, though Craddock doesn't feel the wind will be too difficult to manage. There is no more meticulous preparation guy on the team than Craddock, who has been known to work with Stover even over Terps bye weeks.

"Everyone I have talked to so far have said it's not too bad," Craddock said of conditions in Levi's Stadium.

For next year, as he polishes up his game even more as a senior, Craddock said he wants to get his weight and strength up to get more power on his kickoffs. That and consolidating the technique he has already seemingly got down pat, as evidenced by his near-perfect season. Ever the student, Craddock said he has items to hone heading into every season.

"I just know it is always going to be that way," said Craddock, who said he uses spring ball to re-boot each year. "But hopefully after this I will not kick a ball for four weeks, which will be good to have a break."

And Craddock will do just that when he trips home to Australia the day after the bowl game in San Francisco.

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