Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars:Archie D. CRAFT
Turning Stature Into Success Langston quarterback doesn’t let size prevent him from making big strides
By Robin V. Smiles
Langston University’s sports information director James Hilliard says the school’s starting quarterback and Student Government Association president is “not a big guy.” But, he says, Archie D. Craft II’s
on-the-field leadership skills more than make up for his size. “When he was in the game, it made all the difference. The team knew his leadership skills would carry them through.”
Making a difference is what Craft is all about. And according to those who know him, he has done just that in his many leadership roles at Oklahoma’s only historically Black institution.
As Langston’s starting quarterback for the last three years, he helped the school stay above the 500 winning percentage. And this school year, as SGA president he brought experts, students, faculty and administration together for a conference on HIV/AIDS.
Craft’s outstanding leadership skills have impressed many on Langston’s campus. His style is described as low-key and responsive.
“He is very understanding and receptive to the students’ needs. He is dedicated to trying to be the voice of the student body,” says Brent Russell, who has worked closely with Craft as student life coordinator and SGA adviser.
“When it comes to the basics that we look for in a leader — accountability, credibility and stability — Archie ranks at the top of each of those categories,” says Joseph Brown, assistant to the vice president of student affairs.
That type of reputation and Langston’s small
family-oriented atmosphere has provided Craft, 22, with opportunities he says he would not have gotten anywhere else. He has been to Washington, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Virginia to represent the school at
various conferences and alumni functions.
“I have felt very secure in having him represent the university all across America,” says Langston
President Dr. Ernest L. Holloway. “I’ve carried him along with me to many places and even had him
represent me on several occasions.”
“Langston has been great for me,” says Craft. It has also been great for his parents, who have not had to empty their pockets for his education thanks to a full scholarship. “That is one of the main reasons I chose Langston,” says Craft. “I didn’t want my
parents to have to pay for college.”
Although his father is an alumnus, that was no guarantee Craft would attend Langston. In fact, before he was offered the full scholarship, he hadn’t imagined going there. He was familiar with the school’s football record and was not impressed.
However, he came in as a freshman and played the last part of the season. In fact, in the first game he started as quarterback, he threw for 307 yards.
But staying in the game during his sophomore and junior years proved an uphill battle for Craft. At only 5 feet 7 inches, many considered him too small to be an effective quarterback. And unfortunately, on more than one occasion, his size took precedence over his ability and he was taken out of the game, while others were brought in.
During those years, Craft faced quite a bit of
criticism from those who doubted his abilities. And he remembers the experience as being “very frustrating.” When asked how he overcame it, he replies, “with a lot of patience and self-control — holding on until they had to put me back in.”
Brown also remembers a time when Craft was taken out of the game so the team could try out
another student as quarterback — someone taller.
He says Craft overcame the challenge with
intelligence and determination.
“Sometimes when you can think your way around a player, it is better than running your way around the player. It’s not the size of the body, but the size of determination that counts,” says Brown.
By his senior year, Craft’s patience, self-control and determination paid off. “Senior year was my year,” says Craft. He started the entire season and helped the team end the year with a 5-4 record. “By then they realized that no matter my size, I could play,” says Craft. And now, he has the record to prove it. Craft made the Central States Football League’s Second Team All-Conference, as well as being the conference’s leading passer and second in individual total offense. He also holds the school record for the longest touchdown pass in a game — 97 yards.
Craft’s academic achievement is less subjective. He maintains an impressive 3.81 cumulative GPA and can boast three 4.0 semesters. He is a member of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society, was named to the Coca-Cola All-Academic Team twice and to the American Urban Radio Networks All-Academic Team.
Craft is especially proud of the Radio Networks honor, which included an all-expenses-paid trip to Atlanta to attend the ceremony. “It was an athletics banquet, but we (he and another teammate) were being honored for our academics,” says Craft.
Craft is no stranger to being a student-athlete. He’s been juggling academics and athletics since junior high school — playing not only football but golf as well. And according to Craft, he never had a problem with school. “Books are second nature,” he says.
He credits his upbringing with much of his success. “My parents instilled in me to always be serious and to take responsibility,” says Craft. He also credits his parents with his ability to prioritize — to know the difference between “what one has to do and what one wants to do.”
As for the future, the broadcast journalism major has been offered a job by Cox Cable, where he
currently has an internship. He is also considering a position with a Los Angeles production company or perhaps going to graduate school and pursuing an MBA.
Many would find being quarterback, SGA
president and an honor student overwhelming. Add to that working an internship, being actively involved in his church, and being a father to his 18-month-old daughter. But Craft embraces the busy lifestyle. And his ability to handle it all has made him a role model on Langston’s campus.
On campus, he is “highly revered,” says Russell. “Even the administration look up to him and look for his advice.”
“He has been a force in mentoring incoming
students as well,” says Brown. “New students
emulate what they see. And a lot of times he is not even aware that he is doing this.”
As a peer tutor, however, much of Craft’s mentoring has been hands-on. He has also influenced those outside of the Langston family as a Young Life Mentor, interacting with middle-school students from some of Oklahoma’s rural areas. In his role as a mentor, he encourages others to be themselves. He also urges young Black males to avoid getting “caught up in stereotypes.”
Perhaps that message should also be heeded by those who judged Craft first by his size and not his ability. Admittedly, his 5-foot-7-inch, 165-pound frame may not qualify him as a “big” player. But in ambition, determination, dedication and skill he is indeed as big as they come.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com