Craig's Return a Welcome Surprise for Simon Fraser
At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Simon Fraser sophomore Calvin Craig is not easy to move off the crease, as the 100 goals he scored last year attests. With some ailing knees and med schooling calling, this season will likely be Craig's last with the Clansmen.
© Ben Johnson
It was time for Calvin Craig to give up the stick.
The 25-year-old freshman for Simon Fraser had an incredible "rookie" campaign for the Clansmen, leading all of MCLA Division I in goals (100) and points (132), but he felt old. His left knee throbbed after every practice and game from the obliterated meniscus and partially torn ACL. The right knee wasn't much better, having been already diagnosed as arthritic. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds with a deadly indoor crease game, Craig found a way to get his points, but everything hurt.
Throw in the grueling pre-med curriculum and the tedious med school application process, and Craig's mind was fried at the end of last spring, as well.
"I was pretty beat up, both mentally and physically," admitted Craig. "It was a long stretch and my whole mentality was breaking down. I've been playing this game all my life and I've never taken a summer off from lacrosse. I thought it would be nice to give my body a break and just focus on school and the future."
The Simon Fraser staff wasn't terribly surprised.
Clan head coach Brent Hoskins, who had originally recruited Craig in '06 when he was coming out of high school, knew that with Craig's goal of getting into med school at the forefront, he'd likely only have the prolific finisher for a year. Maybe two. When Craig said he was done, Hoskins thanked him and wished him good luck, even if he secretly harbored the hope Craig would return for one more campaign.
"Our approach at the end of last season was just to support Calvin, his academics and his application to med school in terms of being a reference for him," said Hoskins. "We took a hands off approach. It was important to us that if he did decide to come back, it was his decision. We didn't want to lean on him or pressure him into a decision he didn't want to make."
Craig turned into a bookworm. Although he had satisfied nearly all of his graduation requirements, med schools look favorably on prospective candidates who are keeping busy, so Craig maxed out his class schedule. Other than the surgery to repair his meniscus (they left the torn ACL alone), Craig spent his time in class or studying.
Even with as much burnout as he experienced at the conclusion of the 2011 lacrosse season, Craig couldn't help but let his mind wander back to the game that was so much a part of his life.
"I realized I was spending way too much time on my books," Craig said. "I just didn't have any balance in my life at all without lacrosse. As fun as it is getting up at 5 a.m. in the Vancouver rain, I missed it. I honestly did. I contacted Brent and I told him I wanted to come back, and he welcomed me back with open arms. We kept it between each other in case I didn't get cleared with my knees. I didn't want to get everybody's hopes up."
Hearing from Craig was a nice holiday gift for Hoskins.
"He gave me a call about a week before Christmas to let me know that he really missed being around the team and missed playing," said Hoskins. "The thought had popped into his head at that point and wanted to know if we were open to him coming back and rejoining the team in January. We gave him Christmas break to figure it out. If he committed, we wanted it to be 100 percent. We touched base about a week before practice and he said he still wanted to come back. That's definitely a phone call you like to receive as a coach."
The return of Craig reunites one of the most prolific combos in MCLA history. Just behind Craig in the national points lead last year was junior Colton Dow, with 111, including an MCLA best 55 assists. With Dow operating on the other wing, Craig scored at least six goals in nearly half the Clan's contests. His high water mark was 15 goals in the PNCLL tournament first round victory over Portland State, and he also posted a 19-point performance (10g, 9a) in a regular season tilt against Montana.
"As much as they both put up offensive numbers, their style of play is contrasting," said Hoskins of Craig and Dow. "It makes it difficult for teams to match up against us. They probably really have to put a lot of thought into which poles match up better with certain style of players, which obviously makes those match-ups difficult to plan for."
Fraser is off to a relatively slow start in Craig's return. While he's getting his points – Craig has 10 goals and five assists in three games – the Clansmen are 1-2 after losing a stunning overtime game to Boise State. The schedule doesn't let up with No. 3 Colorado State next on the docket this Friday.
Craig is certainly up for the challenge, and excited to have the much-needed equilibrium in his life as he pursues his dream of becoming a cardiologist.
"I think I was wasting away," said Craig of lacrosse's absence. "All I was thinking about was books, books, books, and I was kind of going crazy. I needed to get the endorphins pumping. Last year, it took a while to adjust. It's a very big workload with lacrosse because we practice so much and train and travel. It was tough to deal with, but now I've mentally experienced that and am better prepared for it. The balance is a lot better this semester."
There will be plenty of time for Craig to rest when he gets old.