Sophomore phenom Nate Craig is transferring from Pasco to Tampa Catholic, his mother said Tuesday morning.
“It has nothing to do with football,” said his mom, Nicki, while she was driving to drop off her son’s paperwork so he can start at TC tomorrow. “It’s all about education. That’s what people need to understand.”
Nicki said her job at a medical clinic in Tampa requires an hour commute from Dade City. That made it difficult for Nicki to drop by school to talk with a teacher or pick her son up in case of an emergency. She stressed that the decision was not football-related and that her son was not recruited.
“It’s about being close to him so if I need to meet with a teacher or something were to happen, I can get right to him,” Nicki said.
Craig confirmed via text message that he will start at his new school tomorrow, on the second day of classes at TC. He also said he will not be able to participate in spring football with the Crusaders.
Craig has already established himself as one of the country’s top recruits for the class of 2016. He holds offers from some of the country’s top programs: Florida State, Florida, Miami, Auburn and Ohio State. Scout.com considers him a five-star prospect. In August, the site pegged him as the state’s No. 17 overall recruit, regardless of position or class.
In two seasons with the Pirates, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver/defensive back has racked up more than 500 receiving yards, 41 tackles, four interceptions and 16 total touchdowns. TC graduates its top three receivers, including Justin Motlow (1,100 yards, 10 touchdowns) from a team that finished 10-3 and advanced to the Class 3A state semifinals.
When reached Tuesday morning, Pirates coach Tom McHugh said he had not been told that Craig was officially transferring. The night before Craig’s move became public, McHugh tweeted, “Looking forward to a great junior year with Nate Craig.”
McHugh said he was disappointed because he has coached Craig and his family for years. Craig’s older brother, Josh Johnson, starred for the Pirates before playing defensive back at Purdue and earning a tryout with the San Diego Chargers. Craig’s nephew, Trey Dudley-Giles, was the North Suncoast co-player of the year at Pasco in 2011 and has started 16 games at cornerback for UMass.
McHugh also expressed concern in the system – 7-on-7 all-star teams that give players and coaches from other high schools the chance to recruit talents like Craig and a state legislature that has “taken all the teeth out” of the state’s recruiting and transfer rules.
“You can’t do that in college,” McHugh said of widespread transferring. “You can’t do that in the pros. You can’t do that in PAL. Where can you do that? I guess you can do it in high school.”