Thursday, April 16, 2009

No Ordinary Joe

note: Joe Craddock is the best player I have ever coached. A former MVP in the 5A state championship game- a great Qb at MTSU- and now a professional in Italy of all places. Joe is on the same team that is portrayed in John Grisham's novel, Playing for Pizza. This is his latest journal which proves not only that life is stranger than fiction but life is better than fiction!

4/15/2009 Unbelievable- Journal by Joe Craddock

Friday night I got home from practice at 11:30 p.m. Everyone was
going out to eat but me and Nolan decided to stay in. I decided to stay
in because I wanted to ice my knee before I went to bed because we were
playing the number one team in Italy the next day. Messing around on the
internet, I saw where Murfreesboro had been hit by a tornado. My heart
dropped and I panicked! I immediately picked up the phone and called my
girlfriend Alex. Nervously dialing her number over and over again, I
could not get through to reach Alex. I had never felt so hopeless in my
life. After about the fifth time of the phone going straight to voice
mail, I decided to call her mom to see if she had heard from Alex and to
see if everyone was ok. She told me that everyone in their family was ok
and that Alex's sister and brother in law (Stephanie and Larry) house
was 200 yards away from where the tornado hit and that Alex had gone
over there to check on them. After I talked to them and found out that
the tornado had hit that side of town, I felt a lot better considering
all my friends and ex teammates lived on or near campus. I called a few
more friends to get the scoop on everything and found out that everyone
was ok just some damage here and there. I realize not everyone is not as
lucky as me and that some people lost family and friends. My thoughts
and prayers are with all of those people.
After the earthquake last week in Italy and the tornado in
Murfreesboro, I felt really blessed to be alive and even more blessed to
have the chance to play football. After a 3 hour beautiful drive up
through the mountains of Bolzano, it was time for us to play the
undefeated Bolzano Giants. I was ready and decided to play this game for
Murfreesboro. I had also changed my number to lucky 7. Seven was my
number all my life until college. I always felt great in 7 and I felt
great Saturday night. The Giants Americans were Italian football legend
Reggie Green at runningback who has played in Bolzano for 10 years, a
competitive quarterback, and a giant a defensive end. The Giants also
feature the best defensive and offensive lines in the league. I knew
going into the game that I would not have much time to throw the ball.
But we had to throw it! That is our strength. And throw it we did. I
think we only ran the ball on 3 plays. One was for a touchdown and the
other two for minimal gains.
The scoring got started early when we took the opening drive 65
yards and a third down touchdown to Craig. The Giants answered quick
with a scoring drive of their own. Reggie broke 2 tackles at the line of
scrimmage and galloped into the end zone for a 25 yard touchdown run.
After 2 more touchdown passes to Craig we were up 21-14 at half time.
Early in the second half Reggie broke away from our defense and was
going to score easy! Thankfully for us Reggie pulled up and with a
hamstring injury and we were able to tackle him before he reached the
end zone. Our defense stood strong and came up with a huge goal line
stand. We didn't score in the third but they scored late in the third to
tie the game at 21. Our offense answered with a huge scoring drive.
Since we had thrown the ball the whole game we decided to run a draw
from the ten yard line and it worked perfectly when our "coach turned
player" Andrew Papoccia ran it in untouched. But Bolzano answered quick
and scored leaving 3:33 on the clock. That was plenty of time for our
offense to go 75 yards and that's what we did. Throwing the ball
consistently down the field, we were moving the ball very well until we
were penalized with a holding penalty on third down and we ended up
having a 4th and 13 at the Bolzano 40 yard line. We ran a play that had
worked all game. Just a simple curl-flat to Craig in which I told him in
the huddle to make sure he got past the sticks. It turns out they were
so scared that they were pretty much triple covering Craig but playing
way off. I saw this but they still left the curl window open so I fired
one into the hole. Craig caught it easily for a first down, but as soon
as Craig caught the ball, I just so happened to look in the flats to
Marco Tunnera who was wide open up the sideline. Marco came back to the
huddle with bug eyes, telling me how open he was. I immediately told
Marco to chill out and not bring any attention to himself. I said,
"Marco! I know. I know. I saw you just chill and maybe they didn't see
you!" I was hoping they didn't. Sure enough they didn't. I knew that
they would triple team Craig again so I told Marco to run a wheel up the
sideline. On the snap, I caught the ball and immediately stared at
Craig. All three defenders took the bait leaving Marco wide open again.
He caught the ball and easily scored with a 1:20 on the clock. After
great coverage by our kickoff team, they also had to go around 75 yards,
down 35-28. They did and fast. They scored within a minute and I
immediately started telling our offense to start preparing for overtime.
But I was also hoping that they would either miss or we would block the
extra point because in Italian football the craziest things happen on
the extra point. At home and 5-0, Bolzano decides to go for two. I was
thinking, "Oh no!" Our defense hadn't stopped them since the 2nd
quarter. They get a delay of game and I was thinking that they would for
sure kick the point then. Nope. The quarterback ran around for what seem
like forever until he finally threw the ball in the end zone. The pass
was broken up nicely by our corner. Not even close to pass interference.
But sure enough here came the flag. Pass interference on the Panthers! I
was so mad to say the least! They ran in the 2 point conversion without
one defender touching the quarterback. All their players ran on the
field to celebrate and they all started giving us the number one sign
with their middle fingers! This really fired me up!
After the penalties were assessed they kicked off from the 15
yard line. Craig returned it nicely to the 50 yard line and we were left
with 15 seconds. On the first play, I dropped back trying to hit Andrew
over the middle and got blind- sided but luckily the ball fell
incomplete with 10 seconds left. Next play we were going to try and
throw a deep, deep out route to Craig but he ended up being on the wide
side of the field and I thought better of it remembering what Coach
Mangus had taught me in college. I threw the ball to Emma Gavessi right
on the side line, who then turned inside and gained another 10-15 yards
and was tackled around the 15 yard line. I sprinted to the referee as
soon as he caught the ball calling time out, but the ref pointed at Emma
still running around on the field. As soon as he was tackled there were
three seconds left. I was somewhat relieved when 3 seconds were still on
the clock. Then I saw Emma still on the ground hurt grabbing his right
leg. The problem with this is that Emma is also our field goal kicker
and down by one, we needed him to kick this 30 yarder to win the game.
Emma got up and tried to walk it off. We called another time out to give
him a little more time to gather his thoughts. When the time out was
over, I (the holder) took a knee on the 22 yard line on the left hash.
Emma did not make one kick from the left hash in pre-game warm ups. I
was hoping he had one in him right now! The snap was great and I placed
the ball down. Emma absolutely drilled it! Panthers win 38-36!
The game was crazy never the less, but to see how happy our guys
were again after beating a top Italian team was a great feeling for me
and the other Americans. The presidents girlfriend hugged and kissed me
after the game, telling me thank you so much (just how she had done
after the Bergamo win). The president told me that I was his boy! It was
just a great feeling to see how happy the whole Panthers organization
was after the game.
Come to find out at Tuesday's practice Emma kicked the game
winning field goal with a torn right meniscus (his kicking knee). Marco
Tunnera caught the last touchdown with a shattered right pointer finger
and had surgery on Monday. Craig's hamstring is bothering him pretty bad
and probably won't be playing this week. All in all, we are going to be
hurting this weekend going into our first European league game (EFAF
cup) on Saturday night. As for me, my knee held up pretty good
considering I ran the ball only once. It is still hurting a little this
week but the pain has definitely decreased!

American's Stats:
Craig McIntyre- 17 recs for 168, 3 td's
Andrew Papoccia- 10 solo, 1 ast, 3 TFL, 2 sacks..... 1 rush TD
Joe Craddock- 33-52 for 423, 4 td's .. 1 rush for 18

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