RTI contributor Murphy Carlton is the author of this article
Tennessee redshirt junior tight end Andrew Craig received a text from head coach Jeremy Pruitt to come see him in his office one day after the team went through some winter competitions back in February.
Craig, a 6-foot-4, 244-pound redshirt junior tight end who, at the time, was a walk-on for the Vols, wasn’t sure what the meeting with Pruitt was about. Little did he know that his day and UT career were both about to change in a big way.
“He explained to me how they had an extra scholarship available and he thought I was worthy of it,” Craig said about his meeting with Pruitt. “I was surprised and excited. I grew up in Knoxville, so it was kind of a dream come true to play here and be put on scholarship. It was a great experience for me and my whole family.”
Craig first came to campus back in 2016 when he joined the Vols as a walk-on. After a two seasons of being mainly on the scout team, Craig appeared in 11 games in the 2018 season during short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Growing up in Knoxville and playing at Webb High School, Craig is living out his childhood dream of playing football for the Vols. After years of hard work and determination, he’s finally able to play on scholarship now.
“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,” Craig explained. “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.”
Craig has a point of view that most fans may not get to hear about. He’s worked behind the scenes on Tennessee’s scout team, which does not get a whole lot of attention when practice reports are written up by various media outlets.
“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,” Craig said. “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.”
While he and other walk-ons tend to get overshadowed by other players on the roster, Craig knows that if a player knows and understands his role and works hard every day, good things will eventually happen.
“Coming in as a freshman, the most important thing was just knowing my role,” Craig stated. “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.”
That type of mentality is very common among walk-ons throughout college football, as they know how important they are to their teammates and the program as well, even if it’s not talked about much.
Now that he’s on scholarship, Craig is ready to contribute for the Vols again in 2019, and he could be serving a larger role than he did last season. Craig is slated as a potential backup tight end option behind starting senior Dominick Wood-Anderson. Craig has been battling Austin Pope to be the second option at tight end for the Vols this upcoming season, and he’s been fending off competition from Princeton Fant, Jacob Warren, Jackson Lowe, and Sean Brown as well.
Craig and the Vols kick off the 2019 season this Saturday when Tennessee hosts Georgia State at 3:30 p.m. at Neyland Stadium.