Top 2016 recruit Nate Craig lands at Tampa Catholic

Sophomore Nate Craig is already a coveted recruit with offers from the likes of Miami, Florida and Florida State. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times
Sophomore Nate Craig is already a coveted recruit with offers from the likes of Miami, Florida and Florida State.DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
Published January 22 2014

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 Tampa Catholic today. "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 today, the second day of classes at TC. He also said he will not be able to participate in spring football.

Craig has already established himself as one of the country's top recruits for the class of 2016. He holds offers from top programs like Florida State, Florida, Miami, Auburn and Ohio State. 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.

Pirates coach Tom McHugh said he was disappointed with the move 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 Tampa Bay Times' 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 talent 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."

Girls basketball

Freedom's girls basketball team will be formally honored as MaxPreps' state team of the week at Friday's home game against Wharton on senior night.

The Patriots (18-4) earned that honor by rattling off nine consecutive wins after suffering three losses in December. Steinbrenner snapped that winning streak last week by beating the Patriots 44-43.