Soccer standout kicks cancer, gives back to St. Jude

Soccer standout kicks cancer, gives back to St.Jude

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tickets for the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway are up for grabs Friday – with the chance for a special prize just for reserving a ticket by midnight!

Southern Serenity is building the 4-bed, 4-and-a-half bath home in Lakeland, worth almost half a million dollars!

And if you reserve a ticket by the end of the day Friday you could also win a couples package.

That includes eight club box seats to a Memphis Grizzlies game next season, a diamond bracelet and a $1,000 Visa gift card!

All of the proceeds go to finding cures and saving lives at St. Jude.

A high school soccer standout with brains to match.

“I really played everything, but primarily forward. I graduated high school at 16,” said Craig. “I had some pretty good scholarship offers from various schools Duke, Harvard, Baylor, Morehouse.”

At 15 years old, Craig was the big man on campus at his school in Baton Rouge.

His big goal was to make it to the majors.

“My senior year I was able to walk onto the Howard University soccer team, did very well that season, ending up playing in an adult league in Washington D.C.,” he shared.

But it didn’t end there.

“I got an invitation to a professional soccer tryout in Charlotte,” said Craig. “Did well there, went to one in Houston and after the one in Houston, I was invited to a soccer tryout in Europe.”

To hear all these accomplishments, and to see this incredibly contagious smile on his face, you would never know Craig had cancer.

In 2008, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Unlike a soccer game, he couldn’t practice for this match.

“I can remember it like it was yesterday,” he said. “During practice one day, one of my teammates, who’s actually a cousin of mine, knocked me over.”

“I felt a pain but I continued to practice. Got home that night, and my mom just thought I was out of shape and sore so she sent me to the tub to soak and from that, she saw a knot in my abdomen about the size of a tangerine, so went to my primary care doctor, my pediatrician, the next day he diagnosed it as a sports hernia but he sent me to the general surgeon and he was doing his examination and during his examination, I had pain in my side and they ran an ultrasound up my side and saw my spleen was swollen and torn so from there, I was rushed to the hospital, given a blood transfusion, things were looking like they were healing on its own but a nurse randomly walking by hearing a conversation between the doctors and my parents, ran a random blood culture, and that’s where they saw leukemia in my blood.”

Craig thought his life was over.

“When you hear the word cancer, you know the first thing that comes to your mind is death,” said Craig.

Little did he know, he was about to live a life full of love and happiness, at perhaps the happiest place on Danny Thomas Boulevard.

“My mom calls SJ the Disneyland for sick kids because the nurses, the staff, literally from the receptionists to the cooks, everyone has a positive attitude, such positivity energy it never allows you to be too sad,” said Craig.

It’s been a long journey for this rising soccer star.

After three years of chemo, and two months being bedridden, he had to relearn how to walk.

Walking turned into running and he’s been in beast mode ever since.

This Howard graduate holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, a master’s in Special Education and is now giving back to a place that gave so much to him.

“I get to see everyday a place that saved my life and now I’m impacting it in my own way today,” he said.

Although Craig has kicked his cancer, he hopes his boots will meet a ball again.

“I plan on playing in the Greater Memphis Soccer Association in the next couple of weeks so fingers crossed,” said Craig.

A survivor, moving forward, with his eyes always on the goal.

“Your wildest dreams can come true.”

The St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway campaign kicks off tomorrow!

We’ll have special coverage all day beginning at 5 a.m.

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