Outside the Lines: Craddock grabs Raider spotlight on ESPN

America, meet Joe Craddock.

The former Briarwood Christian quarterback that took the Lions to a state title in 2003 took to the national stage on ESPN Thursday night in just his second collegiate start.

He’s not the next Broadway Joe, but Craddock didn’t mind the packed house at Cardinal Stadium or the millions tuning in from around the nation. He was poised and ready to show the Middle Tenneesee Blue Raiders what they’ve been waiting for in a quarterback.

While on the sidelines, he watched No. 8 Louisville score on an 81-yard pass to open the game with just 18 seconds spent off the game clock. Welcome to Top 10 football.

Craddock, being the competitor he is, immediately set the tone for the game, answering the bomb with a 78-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus McNair. The strike set a record for the longest touchdown pass in MTSU history.

The play almost didn’t happen.

With Craddock in position to earn a starting role mid-way through the 2005 season as a redshirt-freshman, he was making a cut across the field, no different than one he’d taken numerous times in high school, but the snap felt, and heard, said this one was different.

A torn ACL was the diagnosis, causing him to miss another year.

Craddock bounced back to split time last season and earn a starting spot this fall. He went on to post 290 yards and two touchdowns Thursday, as he impressed his fan base – receiving messages from across the nation within minutes of the game ending.

“I turned my phone on after the game and had probably close to 30 text messages and 10 or 12 voice mails,” Craddock said.

One of the texts was from Arizona Cardinals second string fullback Tim Castille who spent a half hour talking with his and Craddock’s high school coach, Fred Yancey, while watching the game.

However, as much as Craddock impressed fans, he still has a lot of work to do when he leads his team in Death Valley Saturday to take on the LSU Tigers.

“We’re going to go down there and play our heart out. We played really hard against Louisville and were really close to wining,” Craddock said. “Hopefully we can keep it close in the fourth quarter and they’ll make a mistake and we’ll have a chance to score late and beat them.