WPIAL Alum Q&A – Shavonta Craft
Wednesday, November 9, 2016 | 6:17 PM
Jeannette’s football tradition is nearly unparalleled in the district, and the Jayhawks have produced a bevy of college and even professional players in recent years. While some of those athletes have played football throughout the country, Shavonta Craft continued his career just a few miles from his high school. Craft, a running back, is about to conclude his tenure at St. Vincent College. He’s the featured athlete in this week’s edition of the WPIAL Alum Q&A.
As a Jayhawk, Craft was a four-year letterwinner, and earned All-Section honors three times, as well as All-State recognition. As a junior in 2011, he helped carry Jeannette to a 12-1 mark, with the only defeat coming in the WPIAL title game against Aliquippa, a 14-7 setback. That campaign, Craft rushed for more than 700 yards, scoring 17 touchdowns.
The following season, Craft increased his rushing output, as he reached the 800-yard plateau, and found the end zone 14 times. Despite a record of 10-2, the Jayhawks were again bounced from the postseason by Aliquippa, this time in the semifinals.
Following his high-school career, Craft matriculated to West Liberty State in West Virginia, and played in eight contests.
In 2014, though, he returned to the area, joining the St. Vincent Bearcats. His impact was immediate, as he rushed for more than 800 yards and scored nine times in his first season with the team. Included in that was an incredible 199-yard performance against Grove City. He also topped 300 yards receiving that season. For his efforts, Craft was named All-Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) Second Team.
As a junior, his numbers dipped slightly, as he totaled 437 yards on the ground, but still scored eight touchdowns. Much like the previous season, Craft was a factor in the passing game, as well, as he hauled in 21 passes for 233 yards. Subsequently, he was deemed an All-PAC Honorable Mention.
With one game remaining in his senior campaign, Craft has contributed nearly 500 yards rushing and almost 300 yards receiving in 2016. Again, he’s shown a penchant for scoring, as he’s collected nine total touchdowns. Also, after consecutive 4-6 records in 2014 and 2015, the Bearcats will finish at least .500 this year.
Craft took time prior to the Bearcats finale on Saturday to discuss his multi-faceted skills, his pride in Jeannette football, and what rules he’d change in the game.
Q: You’ve scored at least eight touchdowns in each of your seasons at St. Vincent. How have you had such a knack for finding the end zone?
A: I would have to say it has a lot to do with my team putting trust in me to give me a chance to find the end zone. I do not believe I have to score for us to win the game, considering the talent we have, but if that is one of my roles on the team, I accept it.
Q: You’ve had impressive rushing numbers, but also have been a weapon as a receiver. How important is your ability to contribute in the passing game?
A: It is very important, especially with the offense we run. The ball is spread around the offense consistently, and I feel our plan is to just give our playmakers a chance. Personally, I like being an all-purpose back; it keeps the defense honest.
Q: Did you set any individual goals this season, and if so, were you able to achieve them?
A: My individual goal for this year was simply do anything I can to put my team in the position to win each game. The overall result on the season was not my goal, but for the most part, I think I did well.
Q: As a senior, have your final games taken on a greater meaning to you, or have they felt the same as the rest?
A: I really don’t feel it hit me that this is my final season. I just have been trying to embrace the last few games with my team and making the best out of what I am given.
Q: You played for a year at West Liberty State before coming back to the area. What led to your decision to transfer to St. Vincent?
A: I had personal and family reason leading to my transfer. In the end, I am very fortunate to end up at Saint Vincent College.
Q: Jeannette is among the most storied football programs in the area. What was it like playing with that tradition in the program?
A: The tradition and pride that grew on me from playing at Jeannette has really stuck with me. I feel that is a big drive for me to be successful on the field.
Q: What was your fondest memory from high school?
A: The fondest memory I have from high school is the overall excitement that used to come before each game. Not many things in life can compare to the excitement of playing high school football, especially at a program like Jeannette.
Q: Do you still follow Jayhawks athletics, and if so, what do you think of this year’s football team?
A: Of course, I will always follow where I came from. I think the football team this year has had a great regular season. They have the leaders and talent to keep their success going and I feel they will find a way to the top this postseason.
Q: What is your major and hopeful future profession?
A: My major is Accounting; I hope to attain a job I enjoy in the field of accounting and have a chance to grow with a company.
Q: With the Steelers holding training camp at St. Vincent every year, have you had a chance to interact with any of the players?
A: They really advise us to not bother the Steelers, so for the most part we all follow the rules, but during camp I pretty much see every Steeler on the team around campus. In most cases, they do say “Hello.”
Q: Who is your favorite pro athlete?
A: I am not too sure I have one favorite athlete in this modern day NFL, but growing up my favorite running back was always Maurice Jones-Drew.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: My favorite food can change daily. I would have to say whatever I am in the mood for would be my favorite food, at least for that moment.
Q: If you could change one rule in football (in high school, college or even pros), what would it be?
A: I am not against the protecting of athletes, but I do feel there should be a line drawn with a lot of the rules against unsportsmanlike penalties. Athletes know what they are putting themselves in by participating in football. This is more of an NFL problem, but I feel there is plenty of flags that could not be thrown in this area.
Q: What advice would you give to an incoming freshman student athlete on how to be successful?
A: I would tell them to never be discouraged, and that it will be hard, at least at first. They should stick with it and success will come. More importantly, have fun playing this game.
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