Any high school or college football fan has heard at least one story about a player who was forced to carry a ball with him at all times after suffering through a bad stretch of fumble-itis. Yet no matter how long those struggling backs of years past may have lugged a ball as punishment, they've got nothing on Concord-Carlisle (Mass.) High junior running back George Craan, who has carried a football with him every single day for the past 11 years.
"I've always [carried a football] because I love it," Craan told the Boston Globe. "I can't be without it. It started back in elementary school. In recess they'd never have a football, only kickball. So I brought my own. I carried it all the time. And I still do.''
The security Craan gets from toting a football everywhere has helped make him a secure ball carrier, and make Concord-Carlisle a regional power. The Patriots won the Dual-County League for the second consecutive year, earning a bid in the Division 2A state semifinals against 9-1 North Andover.
That's a long ways from where the Patriots were when head coach Mike Robichaud took charge of the program two years ago. Craan has been a huge part of the program's rebuilding job, powering a run-first wing-T attack that relies on having a versatile featured back.
"We're a run-first team,'' Robichaud told the Globe. "Some may call it boring, but we think it's pretty good. We rely heavily on our line and specifically our guards. They kick-start the whole thing. When we get one of those guys out in front of George, good things happen.
"George is a guy - in terms of his focus, his enthusiasm, and how supportive he is of his teammates - he's everything you want in a player. He's a great motivator and a hard worker. Every play, every game, he's going all out. He's not going to overlook anyone or take any opponent lightly.''
If Craan does lead the Patriots to a Super Bowl title, he'll fulfill a promise he made to Robichaud on one of the coach's first days on the job.
"We were at a basketball game and he walked right over. ‘Congratulations,' he said. ‘Coach, we're going to win a Super Bowl.' I laughed and told him we've got a long way to go.''
The Patriots are almost there, thanks to a guy who has carried a football for more than 4,000 days in a row.
"We want nothing more than postseason success,'' Craan told the Globe. "But we're not there yet."