- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stop if you’ve heard this one before. Brad Craddock’s dreams of playing college football began as a result of a high school research paper.

No, really.

“I did a year 12 assignment in grade 12 on the difference between kicking in Australian rules football and kicking in American football,” the native of Adelaide, Australia, said. “As one of my references, I found my now-coach back home.”

OK, it’s not exactly a typical path. Surely, though, his recruiting process wasn’t like so many of his new Maryland teammates.

Not entirely. Evaluations were done on video. Craddock called several American schools to gauge interest in his kicking and punting. He did it at 3 a.m. to account for the time difference, though only occasionally did someone pick up the phone on the other end.

“It’s just a thing you have to be persistent at if it’s what you want to do,” said Craddock, who estimates he left 20 missed calls with Maryland assistant recruiting coordinator Ryan Steinberg.

All right, but this is a reasonably seamless tale, right? The usual tale of a guy directly moving on from high school to college?

Well, only if a yearlong stint training while stashing away savings from a side job at bus depot counts.

“I got enough there so I can get home again,” Craddock said.

At this point, he shouldn’t be in a rush.

Craddock was not only a late addition to Maryland’s roster, but a needed one as the Terrapins (2-1) have ventured through the opening stages of the season. He’s handled kickoffs and placekicking duties, providing a capable replacement for injured senior Nick Ferrara (hip).

He’s made a pair of field goals, including a 45-yarder that was Maryland’s longest since late in the 2010 season. He’s perfect on five extra-point attempts.

Just as importantly, he’s made himself at home in College Park upon arriving a few days before preseason camp commenced last month.

“He’s a real outgoing guy, so he hasn’t had any conflict with anyone,” punter Nathan Renfro said.

No wonder. In some ways, it’s the ultimate happy-to-be-here saga for a guy who played Australian rules football since he was in second grade.

After Craddock’s high school research paper a few years ago, the coach he contacted offered to come see him kick. Upon doing so, he promised to return in three weeks for another evaluation. Eventually, Craddock visited a couple of American kicking camps and talked to various college coaches.

“It sort of just happened without me really saying ‘This is what I want to do.’” Craddock said. “Now I’m here and loving it.”

Maryland had its own ties to Australia. During coach Randy Edsall’s early years at Connecticut, his punter was Aussie Adam Coles, who in turn provided some insight on Craddock’s skill set.

“You have the film and you look at the film,” Edsall said. “At that point in time, it’s not an evaluation period. You’re not going to fly to Australia at that point in time to see the kid. You have to try to use your resources the best you can.”

Craddock still was in for a change. Over the last year, he would work half-days and train the rest of the time, receiving help and support from superiors at a bus depot who wanted to help him pursue a career in what initially began just as punting but eventually branched into kicking.

Now, there’s the element of class and added training in the American system.

“You just kick a lot more and run a lot more,” Craddock said. “I’m getting sort of used to it, but you just get really tired and you go, ‘What’s going on? I’m used to more hours of sleep.’ I’m getting there. It’s just one of those things you have to adapt to. I just want to keep improving. I still don’t feel like I’m at the point where I should be.”

He is, however, fitting in. When Maryland’s freshmen had to put on skits during camp, Craddock opted for an introduction to Australia littered with local lingo.

“He’s just kind of goofy by nature,” Renfro said. “Something I’ve kind of noticed is when he tries to be funny, it’s not that funny. When he’s just himself, he’s kind of a crack-up and real funny.”

There is plenty still to learn as well. Craddock figured after watching “Sunday Night Football” — “Monday Morning Football,” for him — for several years that he would know the rules to the American game.

One area he’s still figuring things out is tackling. It led to a couple of awkward moments in the opening weeks, especially when he was stunned to be on the receiving end of a stiff arm against Temple.

“He hit me in the face,” Craddock said. “Back home, that’s high contact and I would have gotten a free. He hits me in the face. I didn’t think he was allowed to do that. Watching the replay, it didn’t look too good. He went straight through me. I’m glad someone was there and cleaned it up.”

There is another notable disparity between his past and present. While playing in a grand final for his Flagstaff Hill club, Craddock estimates between 1,000 and 2,000 fans attended. Maryland drew more than 30,000 for both of its first two games.

“That first game was amazing,” Craddock said. “Just the thrill of being in it, the game changes so fast. It’s different to back home, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Consider it the one predictable facet to date of Craddock’s unconventional journey.

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