JANUARY 28, 1985
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 wellhurled 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 potent."