Denver Broncos fullback Aaron Craver, the battering ram who
clears the way for league rushing leader Terrell Davis, started
his NFL career with a clutch performance worthy of the Hall of
Fame. During a predraft workout at East Los Angeles Junior
College in 1991, Craver, a tailback from Fresno State, saved the
life of Dallas running backs coach Joe Brodsky. When the coach
suffered a seizure on the sidelines, Craver rushed to his side,
cleared the crowd away, cushioned the coach's head with a
sweatshirt and placed a calculator in Brodsky's mouth to prevent
him from swallowing his tongue. Craver, who followed procedures
he had learned in a first-aid class at Fresno just a month
earlier, was the only one to react in a crowd full of stunned
coaches, players and onlookers that included two police
officers. "No one knew what to do, but then this kid just came
running over and saved my life," says Brodsky, 62. "He's an
outstanding kid. I love him all the way."
Brodsky had surgery that night to repair a vein in the back of
his brain and has been fine ever since. "That whole experience
was incomparable to anything I've experienced in athletics,"
says Craver, 27. "Saving a game is nothing compared to saving a
After rescuing Brodsky, however, Craver spent the next four
seasons trying to resuscitate his own unlikely football career.
Even though he had saved the Cowboys' assistant coach, Dallas
passed on the six-foot, 220-pound Craver, and he was drafted by
Miami in the third round. But Craver crumbled under the pressure
of playing for coach Don Shula as a rookie, appeared in only six
games the next year and then suffered a season-ending knee
injury in 1993. The following year he was cut and re-signed
twice by the Dolphins. He became a free agent after that season
and signed a two-year, $1 million deal in '95 with Denver.
With the Broncos, Craver, too, has found new life. Last year,
when he wasn't blocking for Davis, he gained 752 all-purpose
yards. This season Craver ranks among the league's top
fullbacks, with an average of 4.2 yards per carry and 486
As an asthmatic child growing up in Compton, Calif., Craver
limited his activities to baseball (in which he had a .400
batting average at Compton High), bowling (better than a 200
average) and books (3.0 grade point average). He graduated from
high school at 16 and then, after the Toronto Blue Jays showed
interest in him, played for two weeks in the Mexican baseball
league. Homesick, he returned to Compton, where two years later
a friend persuaded him to give football a try. After a stint at
nearby El Camino Junior College, Craver transferred to Fresno
State and rushed for 2,251 yards and 26 TDs in two years. "I go
home and my old friends still look at me funny," says Craver.
"They say, 'Hey, I saw you on television. When did you start
Actually, it wasn't until he arrived in Denver, where his
explosive strength and surefire hands have made him John Elway's
go-to guy on short third-down passes, that he really started to
play. "Unlike a lot of other places in the NFL, the best players
start here, not the biggest names," says Craver. "That's perfect
for me. That's why, after all I've done and been through, coming
to Denver was the best decision I've ever made."
You might even call it a lifesaver.
COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER When he's not opening holes for Davis, Craver can be dangerous in his own right. [Aaron Craver in game]