Opponents knew him for his punishing running style. Those close to him know him for his grace.
You likely know Roger Craig as the dual-threat running back who starred on the 49ers’ three Super Bowl-winning teams throughout the 1980s. Craig was named to the Pro Bowl four times during an accomplished 11-year NFL career that has teetered on Hall-of-Fame status. He never missed the playoffs. In 1985, he became the first of two players (the other is Marshall Faulk) in NFL history to have a 1,000-yard rushing, 1,000-yard receiving season. Three years later, Craig won the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year Award.
Despite these accomplishments, perhaps the most telling chapter of his football career preceded his 49ers tenure.
Prior to his senior year at Nebraska, Craig, an All-Big 8 running back during his junior year, switched to fullback because that’s what his coaches asked of him. He feared the position change would hurt his NFL draft stock. If anything, it did the opposite.
Craig’s transition to a less-glamorous role impressed then-49ers assistant coach Jim Gruden, father of current Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. Jim Gruden advised then-49ers head coach Bill Walsh to draft Craig. Walsh listened, selecting Craig with the No. 49 overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft.