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January 10, 2013

Craig glad to be home

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AUBURN -- Dameyune Craig played for Jimbo Fisher and was plucked from coaching anonymity a few years back by Fisher, who gave him a chance to upgrade from South Alabama to Florida State.

The ties run deep between these two.

Yet Craig's association with Auburn ultimately was the stronger bond. The former quarterback left Fisher and joined Gus Malzahn's staff earlier this month, which he explained Thursday as a move he was destined to make.

"(Fisher) took me under his wing and taught me the game and introduced me to this profession," Craig said. "You have to understand when it's time. Having an opportunity to come home and coach for the school that you played for? I look at it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Craig signed with Auburn in 1993 out of Blount High in Mobile. He spent his first season as a redshirt and two more as Patrick Nix's understudy. When given a chance to start in 2006 and 2007, he led Auburn to an 18-7 record and a pair of bowl wins.

Craig still owns season records for completions (216) and yards (3,227) along with the single-game mark for net yards gained in a 445-yard performance against Army in 1996.

He was a star player by any measure.

Now he's aiming to become a star coach. Craig, 38, said returning home to Auburn always was a thought. Yet the recent hire of Gus Malzahn as head coach gave his alma mater a professional allure that couldn't be ignored.

"You've got to have a plan in life. You have to be ahead of the curve," Craig said. "You have to see where this game is going in the next three, five, 10 years. This is where it's going -- a fast-paced game, no huddle, putting guys in space and making plays. In my opinion, (Malzahn is) the best at that. He's leading the way offensively with his philosophy."

Recruiting will remain an Auburn strength.

Malzahn hired three men who served as BCS-conference recruiting coordinators during the 2012 season. Craig served in that role with the Seminoles along with Rodney Garner at Georgia and Tim Horton at Arkansas. Three other assistant coaches - Melvin Smith, Charlie Harbison and Rich Bisaccia - are or have been considered top-tier recruiters at the college level.

Though Craig played a central role in Florida State's strong recruiting efforts during the past few seasons, he knows there is more to learn. No group in America, he said, can offers as much as his current crop of co-workers.

"When I stepped on the plane, (Smith) was on the plane waiting on me. He welcomed me with open arms," Craig said. "He told me how excited he was for the staff to have me. He made me welcome. It's an experienced staff with a lot of coaches. That's what I'm excited about. I think I can learn a lot from these guys. I've been soaking everything in like a sponge."



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