Injury keeps Craig out of pro ball, but not Tinker sports

  • Published
  • By Mike W. Ray
  • Tinker Public Affairs
A member of the 2012 base champion Flight Controllers #1 basketball team and the Gym Rats flag football team was a starting defenseman on a Division 1 college football team a decade ago.

Elbert N. Craig Jr., 31, a Spencer native, played safety for the Oklahoma State University Cowboys in 2000-2003, first under Bob Simmons and then under Les Miles. Craig lettered all four years and might have had a career in the pros if he hadn't blown out a knee.

He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a practice session in the second week of his senior year. "I rehabbed it for three or four weeks and came back and played on it" even though it had not fully healed. "The injury set me back," Craig said. "I tore my knee worse than we thought, so my recovery after surgery took longer than expected."

The Green Bay Packers summoned Craig for a tryout in 2005 "but my knee wasn't ready yet." Consequently, "Green Bay released me and then I had to start working."

Nevertheless, Craig is philosophical about his circumstances.

He played both sides of the ball, and SuperPrep ranked him one of the top 16 defensive backs in the nation, during his senior year at Oklahoma City's Millwood High School. In 2010, Tim Griffin of ESPN.com ranked Craig among OSU's top players of the decade.

"I'm blessed for the opportunity I had to go to college on a scholarship," he said recently. "I started at safety all four years and had a chance to play at the next level. Most important, I graduated from college with a double degree in general business and marketing and a minor in management."

Today Craig is a materiel manager with the 423rd Supply Chain Management Squadron. He has worked at Tinker for five years: two years as a contractor and three years in civil service.