During a scrimmage between Craddock's jayvees and the varsity on the first day of fall practice, the newcomers dominated the Cowboys' juniors and seniors.
"I can recall it like it was yesterday," SW Guilford coach Bryan Davis said. "They beat the mess out of our varsity. I opted at that point in time it would be better for him to go ahead and play on Friday nights. We had some college coaches come to our games that first year – one a Wake Forest coach. The only person he was interested in was ‘No. 44.'"
"Playing on varsity as a freshman, that's a big deal," Craddock said. "You get moved up to varsity the first day; you can't ask for any more than that."
But football is more than just a pastime for Craddock, and his relationship with Davis would become more than just a passing friendship.
"He just motivated me and built me up to where I am now," Craddock said. "I wasn't like a bad kid, but I wasn't on the track that I needed to be on. And working with Coach Davis, he has really matured me and kept me on track since I've been here.
"First of all I learned to stay in the house, because you can get into a lot of trouble. Even if you're not in it, trouble just comes. Sometimes you've got to tell friends, ‘No.' When they want to go out and party, you've got to tell them, ‘No.' It might be hard, but in the long run it will payoff, and they'll know."
However, Davis refuses to take the credit for Craddock's success and maturity.
"I reflect it back to Momma, and I reflect it back to him," Davis said. "I think he cares a lot about himself. He put himself behind the eight ball a little bit when he got here. He's a kid that's got a world of potential. I'm proud of him, I love him to death and I hope he continues to develop like he has."
The Cowboys' longsuffering program has turned around under the guidance of Davis, and Craddock played a large part in its resurgence. They finished 5-5 and went to the playoffs for the second consecutive season in 2005.
It was the first time since the early ‘80s SW Guilford had accomplished that feat, even more impressive considering the conference competition that includes annual meetings with Winston-Salem Carver and Parkland, Kernersville Glenn and High Point Andrews.
In fact, the 3-A Piedmont Triad Conference has six teams that had appeared in the state championship game in the last eight seasons.
"Albert's the reason, or at least part of the reason, we're able to compete with everyone on our schedule now," Davis said. "He's a guy that had to learn a lot about life and about discipline. He's come about as far in a maturity category as any other football player I've ever coached.
"As a football player he's matured physically. He's matured into leadership role. They look to him to see what he's going to do, so they can figure out what they need to do."
Craddock started immediately as a freshman, primarily at tailback and linebacker.
"I feel as though I've been a running back and linebacker all my life," he said.
Last season, Craddock rushed for over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns in eight games.
"His sophomore year was his coming out year," Davis said. "He had the same amount of astounding things on his sophomore film as he did in his junior year. The only difference was he was stronger and able to do some things he wasn't able to the previous year."
This fall Craddock will embark on his senior season – much bigger, stronger and smarter – while still competing at the same positions.
Craddock has been slowed of late due to a unique condition which resulted in a surgical procedure to remove a growth in his stomach. It's nothing serious, but is taking a long time for Craddock to recover and has slowed him somewhat in the combine circuit.
"It's hurt him a little bit physically because he's lost a lot of weight," Davis said. "He doesn't look physically as imposing (now) as he did. I think he'll put that weight back on during the summer months, and he'll be that physical specimen he has been in the past.
"By the end of the summer we'll have him at 100 percent."