Hard working Knoxville native earns UT Football scholarship

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT.)-- One day last February after football workouts, redshirt junior tight end Andrew Craig got a text message that he will never forget.

"We were having some winter competitions and I got a text from Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt afterwards telling me to come to his office," said Craig. "He explained to me how they had an extra scholarship available and he thought I was worthy of it."

Following three years as a walk-on, Pruitt awarded the Knoxville, Tenn., native a scholarship.

"I was surprised and excited," said Craig. "I grew up in Knoxville, so it was dream come true to play here and be put on scholarship. It was a great experience for me and my whole family."

Newly minted as a scholarship football player on the Vols' roster, Craig picked up the phone to tell those that mattered most to him.

"When I called my dad, he was out playing golf and he couldn't wait to tell his golf buddies who he was with," Craig said. "I think my mom was kind of trying to hold back tears and it kind of made me emotional as well. We were holding back tears at that point."

Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano remembers vividly the moment Craig returned to the locker room after being awarded the scholarship.

"Everybody is very excited," said Guarantano. "Everybody sees that Andrew Craig is a great worker and has done a lot for this team. We are very excited for him. When we got the news, everyone was hollering and jumping around him. It was a great thing for him and a great thing for our program … It was great for him and definitely great for his family. His family are big Tennessee people and we are happy he's on scholarship and one of us right now."

A member of the scout team, Craig saw action in one game in 2017 and 11 games in 2018 as reserve tight end, fullback and special teams contributor.

"I knew that it might have been possible. I got to play in all but one of our games last year," said Craig. "I knew there was always a chance. For it to actually happen, you're never really ready for it and overcome with emotion."

Craig viewed his role on Rocky Top as that of a selfless individual. His job wasn't to chase playing time or fame, it was to make those around him better every day that he could.

"When I came in as a freshman, I knew my role wasn't going to be to go out there and play in every game," said Craig. "My role was to be on scout team and make my teammates better. By doing that, it made me a better player."

As a kid who spent his Saturdays at Neyland Stadium, there simply was no other choice for Craig than to don the Orange and White.

"Growing up as a Tennessee fan I knew this is what I wanted to do," said Craig. "Earning the scholarship was something that I was excited about, because I was able to go out and really earn something.

"If you set your goals high than you can definitely achieve them with hard work. I knew from a young age that this is something I kind of wanted to do. And to play football here would be an awesome experience and it has been. Being able to actually get out there on Saturdays in Neyland in front of all of our fans has been a dream come true."

This Saturday Craig will head to Neyland Stadium with a different title than he's had in the past, but his mindset won't change.

"It will be the same old same old, just business as usual," he said. "I'm still the same person."