"I'm so into my profession that I need a place where I can concentrate," he says. "Here there's no pressure, no clutter. I can't even see my neighbors' houses. I'm by myself, with my family."
Roger's wife, Vernessia, rises with him at six each morning. That's when they discuss pressing issues—everything from how the kids are doing in school to the 49ers' game plan. Twice a day Roger phones home from the team's offices 30 minutes away, and he calls again from his jeep on the drive home. The night before games, he has to say good-night to the children by telephone from a hotel room. He won't leave for the stadium the next morning until he gives Vernessia a wake-up call. "I need to hear her voice," he says. "She's a part of me."
Even on Tuesday, his day off, Craig works. He likes to take Rogdrick with him on errands and business calls. On this day, however, he has too many places to go, too many people to see, so Rogdrick stays home. Craig's first stop is at Mizuno Sports, Inc., in Burlingame. He regularly consults with Mizuno's design staff about his football equipment. Today he reports on the performance of his special air-padded thigh guards, and then slips on a new pair of custom-made shoulder pads. "I'll need deltoid plates," he tells a Mizuno vice-president. "I'm hit a lot behind the shoulders."
He heads south to Cupertino for lunch at the Sports City Cafe, which he owns with five teammates. This is no ordinary sports bar. The menu features dishes like mesquite-grilled snapper with prawns, and fettucini smothered in smoked chicken and prosciutto. Original watercolors of athletes hang on the walls. Sports memorabilia—e.g., one of Peggy Fleming's skating costumes, a pair of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's goggles, Greg Louganis's swim trunks—are displayed in a trophy case.
The last stop of the day is a production studio in San Jose, where he is shooting a 30-second TV commercial for a car dealership. The advertising agency has written wordy, tongue-twisting copy. "Oh, man, my lips keep getting stuck," Craig says after botching a take. Several takes later he bolts out the back door. He's antsy to get home.
"My kids come first." he says. "They're what I live for. I play football for them. They are why I take the punishment. I want them to have the finer things in life, the things I didn't have as a child."
Craig, the third oldest of seven children, grew up in Davenport, Iowa. His father, Elijah, was a mechanic who repaired Wonder bread delivery trucks from two in the afternoon until 11 at night. His mother, Ernestine, worked the night shift as a machine operator, making replacement parts for tractors. She would arrive home at 7:30 a.m., in time to get her brood ready for school. "I didn't take a lot of sleep back then," she says. "I just kept going."
Elijah devoted what free time he had to his children and his electric guitar. He would gather the kids in the den for concerts, which usually included a bit of B.B. King and Chuck Berry, and some blues and gospel. The children would laugh at his elaborate fingering of the guitar, and they would dance around the room. "I kick myself in the butt all the time for not learning the guitar." Roger says.
One thing that he did learn from his father was the value of hard work. The lesson paid off early. In the opening football game of his junior year in high school, Roger broke his right leg. He knew he would miss the entire year, but he took an aggressive approach to his rehabilitation. He would throw down his crutches and walk back and forth across the living room. He would lift the sofa and various siblings using his bad leg. "Roger went through four or five casts." says Ernestine. "That boy scared me half to death."
After the last cast was removed, Elijah pestered his son to resume running. "Did you do your road work today?" he would ask after he got home from the garage. Elijah knew Nebraska had its eye on Roger.