Childhood tragedy set framework for life of lineman Victor Craven

    Victor Craven

    Victor Craven
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    Aug. 8, 2013

    By Tom Weber
    SIUSalukis.com

    CARBONDALE, Ill. - To really understand Saluki offensive tackle Victor Craven, you have to appreciate all he's been through since a tragic childhood event set the framework for his life.

    When Craven was a three-year-old toddler living in Oklahoma City, he witnessed the murder of his father. His dad was an immigrant who got caught up in a "heated situation, in which guns went off" while little Victor and his mom, Melissa Craven, looked on.

    Today, Craven stands before you as a well-mannered, articulate fifth-year senior at SIU. He recently earned his degree in political science and is planning to take the Law School Admission Test after the season ends. You'd never suspect that he grew up grieving about a lost father, or that he struggled with rebelliousness and academic problems.

    "I always wanted to push away from teachers," he remembered. "The situation with my dad, I bottled it all in, which was really not a good thing to do."

    "It's not that I wasn't capable in school -- it was more my attitude," Craven continued. "The traditional grading system requires the regurgitation of information, and I'm completely opposed to that teaching method, although I understand it's the only fair way you can grade, by measuring as much surface knowledge as possible. I've had to learn to play along."

    As a youth, he was one of the biggest kids in school and turned to football as an outlet for his emotions.

    "I could push all that anger and confusion onto the field legally, which kept me away from juvenile detention," said Craven, who now stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 306 pounds.





    "(With football) I could push all that anger and confusion onto the field legally, which kept me away from juvenile detention,"
    Victor Craven


    Craven graduated from Choctaw High School in Oklahoma in 2008, but was academically ineligible to play Division I football, so he enrolled at Coffeyville Community College. It was there he met a kindred spirit in roommate Bryan Presume, who two years later convinced Craven to join him at Southern Illinois.
     

     

    "I'm a lot like Bryan -- kind of quiet and reserved, and keep things to myself," Craven said.

    Before he would come to SIU, however, Craven took several detours. He spent the 2010 season at Northeast Oklahoma A&M, before transferring to the University of Oklahoma. He only participated in spring ball for the Sooners, though, because the offensive coordinator who recruited him, Kevin Wilson, had left the school to become head coach at Indiana. Adding to the confusion, Craven was switched from defensive to offensive line and had to learn a whole new skill set.

    When it became apparent that Craven was not in the plans of Oklahoma's new staff, he went looking for his fourth school. He narrowed it down to Sam Houston State and Southern Illinois, and his relationship with Presume provided the tipping point.

    Craven caught his breath both academically and athletically with a redshirt year in 2011, and although injuries slowed him down early in 2012, he started the final four games of the season at left tackle.

    His third season in a stable environment is finally paying off for Craven. He enters the 2013 season as the clear-cut starter at right tackle and says new offensive line coach Bill O'Boyle has sharpened his technique.

    "Coach O'Boyle has really pushed me and taught me a couple things that I didn't learn from the coaches at Oklahoma," Crave said. "He's helped me with weight transfer and perfected my hand placement."





    "I really like Coach O'Boyle. He expects nothing less than perfection on the field, but off the field, he's really laid back. He knows how to say things, when to get the point across. He knows when to punish, but he doesn't go overboard with anything. He understands how to keep people positive."
    Victor Craven


    Growing up without a dad, Craven admitted he's often looked at his coaches as father figures.

    "I've had plenty of male role models, lots of coaches who have been good to me and helped me off the field and taken me under their wing," he said. "I really like Coach O'Boyle. He expects nothing less than perfection on the field, but off the field, he's really laid back. He knows how to say things, when to get the point across. He knows when to punish, but he doesn't go overboard with anything. He understands how to keep people positive."

    When the season ends, Craven intends to go to law school and someday hopes to be an attorney or a congressman.

    "I'd love to be able to right wrongs," he said. "That's what I'm passionate about."

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    The Salukis held their first practice in full pads today, and Coach Lennon went off-script from the practice plan with a short 11-on-11 scrimmage during the first 30 minutes of practice. Among the highlights were a perfectly thrown pass by QB Kory Faulkner on a wheel route to TE Adam Fuehne, who dropped the ball. The same play worked to perfection a few plays later, in which A.J. Hill completed a pass to RB Tay Willis. Defensive coordinator Bubba Schweigert made the defense drop and do push-ups for getting burned twice on the same play.

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    It's getting harder each day to temper my enthusiasm for RB Malcolm Agnew. The Oregon State transfer continues to impress. During a drill on open-field tackling, the running backs would catch a swing pass, turn upfield and go head-to-head against a linebacker. Five times Agnew caught the ball and each time defenders could barely lay a glove on him. Not only does Agnew have an extra gear, but he adds excellent vision and cutback ability.

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    A number of redshirt freshmen appear ready to assume significant roles on the team. Among them are WR Kennington Easley, OLB Chase Allen, ILB Carl Bivens and OLB Leonard Garron.

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    There's no quarterback controversy with Faulkner as the incumbent starter, but based solely on repetitions, it appears redshirt freshman Ryan West is being vetted for the back-up spot, although senior A.J. Hill remains number two on the depth chart.

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    Members of the O-line and D-Line battled one-on-one during a combative pass-blocking drill. Starting LT Ethan Wirth displayed his pass-protecting chops by twice sealing off speed-rushing DE Kitray Solomon. Starting C Tanner Crum and NT Raysean Golden also had some spirited battles.

    ********************************

    Practice ended with more 11-on-11 scrimmaging. The best offensive play was a Faulkner roll-out to his left in which he completed a perfect strike to TE MyCole Pruitt. The defensive highlight came when CB Chris Davis anticipated an out-route, stepped in front of WR Josh Sullivan and snagged a pick-six from Faulkner.

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