Craig was probably the most valuable player on the 49ers’ 1988 team: his incredible game in Anaheim against the Rams that October enabled a 24-21 victory, without which the 49ers probably wouldn’t have even made the playoffs. He still stands as likely the 49ers’ top running back in franchise history. Craig grew up in the shadows of his older brother, Curtis, who starred as a Nebraska wingback five years before Craig did. Craig said: “He let me be his punching bag. He was really tough on me. But it helped me. I have to give a lot of credit to him. He took a lot of time to build my fundamentals up.”
Craig’s father, Elijah, a mechanic, died of cancer the spring of Craig’s senior year of high school in Davenport, Iowa. Roger said: “My father was always preaching hard work. He kept telling me not to be lazy. He always used to tell me to do more running, do more conditioning and it would pay off in the long run.”
He followed his brother to Nebraksa, struggled his freshman year, but had a phenomenal junior season, gaining 1,007 yards, including 234 against Florida State. But then Mike Rozier transferred to Lincoln, and coach Tom Osborne told Craig to shift to fullback.The rsulting drop in his senior year yardage led the way for the 49ers to pick him 49th in the 1984 draft with their first pick. Craig already had a reputation as a fumbler, but Craig said: “Bill Walsh recognized my talents when I first got here. It’s amazing how someone can work with your talents and make something happen.”
Craig’s agonizing fumble late in the 1990 NFC title game against the Giants acpped a bitter year for him: rushing for just 439 yards and missing five games. He left San Francisco as a Plan B free agent, going to the Raiders, and then the Vikings. In a 49ers official profile, he said: “It was a tough situation during Plan B. I tried to stay out of the negotiations. My agent thought it was best for me to move on. I was getting offered half of my salary in which the Raiders kept my salary the way it was. Economics just make you do other things when you have a family.”
In 1995, he signed with the 49ers to retire wearing the scarlet and gold. Craig said: “I had made up my mind to retire. I just didn’t know how I wanted to announce it. I’m best known as a 49er, and I had my best years there, so I’ve dreamed of going out with the 49ers. . . . It’s going to be a great way to go out.”
Then, in February 1996, he had hopes of going back to the team. Craig said: “I left the game not because I couldn’t play anymore, but because I was exhausted from the politics of the game. I can still catch the ball and still do everything the same way.” I don’t remember exactly what happened to the potential comeback, but at 40, Craig was still jogging 30 miles weekly as a South Bay resident and Internet businessman. He has five kids, and, like Bubba Paris, has given rise to a sports dynasty of sorts: one daughter was a track star, another was a basketball star at Duke and USC, and son Rogdrick is a basketball player at Texas Tech.