Passion And Opportunity: How Ryheem Craig Has Persevered Through A Small Town’s Obstacles

The Louisville Football coaching staff has been exceptional in going all across the country to find talent to fit the Cardinals’ system. Regardless of rating or hype, Scott Satterfield and company have been consistent in recruiting a certain type of player: a selfless student athlete with an extreme passion for the game of football. Their emphasis on bringing in pass rushers took them to a town in North Carolina as they began heavily recruiting Taylorsville native Ryheem Craig. 

The Cardinals offered Craig back on April 2nd, and just over a month later, the three-star defensive end committed to the program.

“I chose Louisville because the family bond I had with the coaches and the other commits; it felt like home,” he explained. “I have a special bond with Coach (Mark) Ivey; he sees something in me that most coaches didn’t. The staff  showed more than I could ask for.” Craig chose Louisville over Illinois, Tennessee, Syracuse, Boston College, Appalachian State, Maryland, Minnesota, NC State, and others. As a junior for Alexander Central High School, he recorded 89 tackles (21.5 for loss), 10.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles. After receiving an offer from Tennessee, Craig saw his recruitment begin to blow up. Things are on the up for him, but it has taken years of perseverance to get to this point.

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Just over 50 miles away from Charlotte, sits the small town of Taylorsville. Home to around 2,174 residents (2018 census) and spanning just under 2.5 square miles, the town doesn’t do any athletes with college ambition any favors in terms of exposure. “Not a lot of recruiters know where I’m at so it’s harder to get your name out there,” Craig said. “I’m one of the first to commit to an ACC program from my school.” However, the limitation of exposure isn’t the only obstacle. “My story is unique because I came from nothing, in a small town where nothing is handed out. Getting taken away from my mom at a young age gave me the power and strength to overcome a lot of hard things I was going to face in life.“

Ryheem Craig
Photo Courtesy of @CraigRyheem

Craig learned early on how to channel pain into focus and passion through the game of football. “I describe myself as a dog,” he explained. “I love to get into dog fights on the line to get to the quarterback; it gives me that ‘dog’ energy.” On the field, he is a hard-hitter that plays with extreme speed and burst off of the line of scrimmage. Once the 6-foot-3, 212 lbs defensive end adds on weight at the next level, he will be a force to reckon with. His style of play is similar to that of former Louisville standout James Hearns; like Hearns, Craig will have opportunities to leave his mark in the Derby City by getting after opposing quarterbacks often. “They can expect a high-motor player that lives in the backfield,” he said while explaining what Louisville fans can expect from him. “I would like Cardnation to know that I will be the ACC rookie of the year!”

Football is a way to make it to the next level and for Craig to represent his loved ones back home. “I do everything for my mom, sister, brothers, and niece,” he added. “They are my ‘day ones’ that are going to be there through thick and thin.” Craig will also be joining a unique family, one that shares the same values of love, loyalty, and strength that he cherishes. As mentioned before, Craig epitomizes the type of recruit and person that the coaching staff is after.

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