OAKLAND, CALIF. — The question came from an Australian reporter following Maryland's win over Iowa on Oct. 18: "How do you rate your kicker?"
Terps coach Randy Edsall got choked up mid-answer, pausing for a moment before continuing to talk about how proud Brad Craddock's countrymen should be of Maryland's Aussie kicker.
"If there are any other Australians like Brad Craddock, I'll fly over there and personally bring them back," Edsall said. "If there's other people over there like him that have the talent, that have the work ethic and have the leadership capabilities and intelligence, then I might even change my citizenship and come over there."
Craddock considered quitting football following his freshman season at Maryland in 2012. Two years later, the junior is the Lou Groza Award winner, a second-team AP All-American and a respected leader for a 7-5 team that is preparing to play Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl.
Craddock made 18 of 19 field goals during the regular season and became the first Maryland player to win a national award since linebacker E.J. Henderson in 2002. Craddock's lone miss came on a 54-yard attempt during the Terps' regular season finale on Nov. 29.
Craddock, who went the longest among FBS kickers without missing a field goal and finished the regular season with the highest field goal conversion rate in the country (94.7 percent).
Craddock has also recorded 28 touchbacks on 72 kickoffs after just 12 of his 69 kickoffs in 2013 went for touchbacks.
"I think it was a very special season," Edsall said prior to Maryland's bowl practice on Friday. "When you end up as the No. 1 placekicker in the country and you win the Lou Groza Award and you're selected for All-American teams, I think that speaks for itself. And the neat thing about it is that the statistics bear it out. To me, he should've been first-team All-American in every team because his statistics were better. … But I'm just happy for him because you just take a look at all the hard work that he's put into it, and he went out and performed and did it on the field under pressure and was outstanding."
Craddock arrived at Maryland as a punter but, despite having never kicked a field goal at a competive level, was moved to kicker because of an injury to starting kicker Nick Ferrara.
"I had a pretty tough freshman year," Craddock said. "I came in here as a punter and started kicking and didn't really know what I was doing. So I wasn't really sure if I wanted to come back. But I knew I would regret it if I didn't, and here I am."
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After making just 10 of 16 field goals as a freshman and missing a decisive 33-yard field goal in the closing seconds of Maryland's 20-18 loss to North Carolina State, Craddock converted 21 of his 25 field goal attempts as a sophomore last year.
This season, Craddock made 11 of 12 on kicks of 40 yards or longer, nailed a school-record 57-yard field goal against Ohio State on Oct. 4 and was triumphantly hoisted into the air by teammates in the locker room at Beaver Stadium following his game-winning 43-yard field goal to lift Maryland to a 20-19 win over Penn State on Nov. 1.
A family science major, Craddock was also one of 21 Terps football players recently named to the Big Ten's All-Academic team.
During team meetings and private talks with players, Edsall has used Craddock as an example of what can come through hard work, and he has advised team members to meet with Craddock and to learn from the junior kicker.
Craddock has counseled one player, sophomore outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue, and helped Ngakoue put together a 90-day schedule that broke down each part of the linebacker's day and included specific days and times each week that Ngakoue should be devoting to academics, football, getting treatment and other activities.
Craddock said he and Ngakoue have already talked about mapping out a similar routine for Ngakoue's offseason.
"Like I've said, he can be a catalyst for a lot of guys on our team to say, 'Hey, if you work hard and do the right things and go and produce, these are the things that can happen for you,'" Edsall said. "So to me, [his year] is very special. It's never happened at the University of Maryland that somebody's won the Lou Groza Award, so that's a first for us. But it's well-deserved and well-earned because of the effort and everything that he put into doing the things that he needed to do."