We talked with one of the newest Bengals, Joe Craig, who recently signed with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent. The speedy wide receiver was the third fastest prospect coming out of high school and his speed is still what makes him standout. Craig has played against A.J. Green in the past (they’re both from South Carolina) and knows Brandon Thompson from his days at Clemson. Craig spent his junior and senior years at Memphis where he was especially effective on special teams. Here’s our interview with Craig:
Rebecca Toback: What do you think about being one of the newest Cincinnati Bengals?
Joe Craig: It’s a blessing especially coming from everything I went through. Getting the opportunity to make the team is a blessing. What they get from me is a hard working athlete. I’ll do anything it takes and anything I can do to get on the field I will do. The good lord has a plan for me. There’s no more troubles. Everything that I want to accomplish in the NFL I know I have the opportunity to do.
RT: Who called you to let you know you would be joining the team?
JC: I don’t even know to be honest. My agent called me first right after the draft. And a rep from the Bengals called afterward to tell me and said he was looking forward to me getting out there.
RT: What was the feeling like being called?
JC: It was surreal. I was hoping to hear my name by the 7th round. And I started crying on my porch watching the draft. My mom and track coach and cousins were there. And then literally 15 minutes after the draft I got the call. The neighborhood came out and congratulated me. The local preacher in the neighborhood had everyone come together in the neighborhood and had everyone come together outside and pray for me.
RT: What were your draft expectations? Were you disappointed?
JC: I had an idea that I was going to be a free agent but after all the hard work I did want to hear my name and see it across the TV screen. But either way, I have my chance and opportunity and I’m going to make the most of it.
RT: What was the draft weekend like for you?
JC: I spent the weekend back in South Carolina with my family. My mom, dad, cousins, everyone who has stood behind me. My track coach has been a second father in my life. It was very humbling for me.
RT: What do you think about joining a high quality roster of Bengals WRs? Is there anyone you’re specifically looking forward to get on the field with?
JC: Most definitely A.J. Green. Not only because he’s a great player but he’s out of South Carolina as well. I played quarterback my sophomore year and played against him in our high school playoffs. I went to Gaffney High School and he went to Summerville, I believe it was in 2008. And I remember him coming up to me and saying you’re going to be great as long as you stay focused. So to be able to play with him, I’m looking forward to that the most.
RT: Were there any other teams who tried to sign you or showed interest before the draft?
JC: I honestly didn’t have any idea I’d be landing with the Bengals, though my agent did talk to Coach Lewis before the draft. The other teams who I’d spoken with were the Jaguars, Colts, Cardinals and Dolphins and they had all said free agency was a possibility.
RT: Tell me about your college days. Any highlights you'd like to share?
JC: My special teams 23-25 yards per kick return and 30 yards per punt return. I’m really fast, that’s what I bring to Bengals nation, my speed. I was the third fastest coming out of high school and I’d stick to that I’m the third fastest in this draft class; that’s going to be my so called money maker.
RT: What's your workout regimen like and what have you been doing to prep for making a team?
JC: After our bowl game in December I’ve been working out every day since then. I haven’t stopped at all.
RT: What are your expectations for the next few weeks?
Make the team. That’s the goal, whatever it takes to do that I’m willing to do. Whatever Coach Lewis wants from me, he’s going to get. I’m going to make the most out of it and do everything I can to make it.
RT: Have you spoken to any of your new teammates yet?
JC: Not at all. I had a couple of them follow me on Twitter but I haven’t spoken to any yet.
RT: Do you know Brandon Thompson from your Clemson days?
JC: Yeah, I used to call him Yams. I’m pretty sure as soon as I get there he’ll take me under his wings, right like how he did when I got to Clemson.
RT: Is there anything else you want Bengals fans to know?
JC: The trouble I got into at Clemson has drawn some concern. I’m passed my troubled days. I’m more mature than I was. This is a grown man’s job and I’m focused on football and winning football games. This is my way out and I’m not going to mess it up.