In the annals of abdom, before Brad Pitt, before Fabio, even
before Marky Mark, there was Roger Craig in his underwear. "I
still get teased about that," Craig says of the 1990, full-page
ad which first appeared in a Monday edition of the San Francisco
Chronicle--an ad that left little to the imagination. "People were
like, You're the guy from the underwear ad! I'm like, What
happened to football?"
What happened was that in 11 NFL seasons, Nebraska alumnus Craig
made four Pro Bowls, earned three Super Bowl rings and picked up
one league MVP award. The quintessential pass-catching,
move-the-sticks 49ers running back, Craig crashed into defensive
lines with all the grace of a well-hurled bowling ball. "I didn't
worry about juking or faking," says Craig. "I would just go after
the guy in front of me and try to annihilate him."
After leaving the Niners as a Plan B free agent in 1990, Craig
suited up for the Los Angeles Raiders and the Minnesota Vikings,
then returned to San Francisco for one season before retiring in
'93. Since then he has dabbled in color commentary (for the San
Jose Sabercats of the Arena Football League), marketing (as
spokesperson for Roger Craig's Sports Bar in Bettendorf, Iowa,
near his hometown of Davenport) and acting (as a bit player in
the fittingly titled Naked Obsession). His current activities
include business development and promotion (for TIBCO, a Palo
Alto Internet software company), and social causes (championing
MLA HOPE, a Bay Area low-income housing program).
Famous for his grueling off-season hill-running regimen, the
40-year-old Craig still jogs 30 miles a week near his home in
Portola Valley, 40 miles south of the Golden Gate. He often
brings along at least one of the five kids he has had with his
wife, Vernessia, four of whom are following in their father's
athletic footsteps. The eldest daughter, 20-year-old Damesha, is
a sprinter at UCLA; Rometra, 18, is a Duke-bound shooting guard
who was named the 1999 California Girls High School Athlete of
the Year; older son Rogdrick, a.k.a. Baby Shaq, is a 6'4", 200
pound, 14-year-old shooting guard; and nine-year-old,
football-crazy Alexander is, says the 6'1", 208-pound Roger,
"built like his dad."
The most impressive of the brood, though, may be the Craigs'
youngest, Nia-Jai, whom Roger calls his "miracle child" because
she was born in 1997, six years after Vernessia had her fallopian
tubes tied. "They say there's a one percent chance of that
happening," Roger says. "Evidently, I'm still pretty
COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER (COVER) Among his five kids are a UCLA sprinter, a Duke-bound shooting guard and a miracle baby.
COLOR PHOTO: JAMES D. WILSON [See caption above]