Connecticut’s Kharon Craig has a football scholarship offer from Georgia

AVON – Kharon “Buck” Craig is a 15-year-old with braces, a nickname with origins he’s too embarrassed to explain, very recent memories of an 8e quality semi-formal dance – and a scholarship offer to play football in Georgia.

Syracuse, Ole Miss, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Boston College, UConn and UMass have also offered. The list will grow.

“I don’t really talk to people about deals because they’ll think I’m like a superhero,” Craig said with a laugh. “Because I’m so young.”

Craig, from Hartford, has yet to debut as a freshman in high school and is already garnering invitations to the world of college football and an education worth a few hundred thousand dollars. It’s not often a Connecticut player gets an offer this early. Notre Dame starting quarterback Drew Pyne caught the eye when he moved to New Canaan as an 8th grader, receiving an offer from Florida State and others.

It’s all a bit surreal. Craig will be 16 in April. By then he will have played one season as a running back and cornerback under coach Jon Wholey at Avon Old Farms. He is listed at 5ft 10 and could be 5-11 at the end of this paragraph as he is still growing. It weighs around 165 lbs.

“He hasn’t played college football and Kirby Smart shakes his hand saying he has a scholarship,” Wholey said. “All the kids call him ‘Five Star.’ But he doesn’t see himself as anything more than a kid trying to improve himself.

If the teachers at Avon Old Farms bothered to open the floor to discussions of “What I Did This Summer,” and if Craig was willing to speak, surely everyone in the room was entertained. Craig spent much of June and July traveling the country, attending many high-profile prospect camps, many of them at Power Five program campuses.

Rutgers was the first school to offer Craig a scholarship on June 2. By the time Craig donned a blue suit the next day for his dance at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Hartford’s North End, he had received offers from Ole Miss, Pitt, Virginia Tech and UMass. Boston College and Syracuse proposed June 12. UConn coach Jim Mora called and proposed on June 14.

The offer from Georgia, last year’s national champion, arrived on June 27. Craig had met Smart a few days earlier at a camp in Georgia. The official offer came from Fran Brown, Georgia’s secondary coach, over the phone.

“Absolutely insane,” said Craig. “He said, ‘We’re going to give you a full scholarship.’ My heart collapsed. I couldn’t believe him when he said that. I was just excited. I was jumping everywhere. I was at home with my mother. She was going crazy too.

How does a 16-year-old get caught up in such discussions, at the heart of the recruiting plans that ultimately make or break college football seasons and teams, and even coaching careers? With rare talent, of course – and the proper resources and support to showcase that talent.

Craig, the younger brother of former UConn player Khyon Gillespie, has worked closely for the past two years with Supreme Athlete, a mentorship and training program launched in 2012 by Stack Williams, a Hartford native who played at UConn in 2004-08. Supreme Athlete has been involved with hundreds of Greater Hartford Area athletes who have gone on to play varsity sports, including dozens in FBS football.

Supreme Athlete is as specialized as it gets. Craig is lined up with a speed coach (Andre Shreeves) and a defensive backs coach (Juice Walker). Much of his hands-on training is provided by Mark Jennings, and the well-connected Williams handles most of the outreach. He organizes camps, trips, phone calls. He lets college coaches know he’s working with a player they might want to pay attention to.

“He’s been consistent, dependable, all in support of the plan I recommended to him,” Williams said. “He followed the formula, and it works. We had to position him in a space where the coaches would evaluate him differently.

Craig has dominated over the years at youth level. But if no one has access to what they are capable of, all achievements are made in an echo chamber. Craig was put in front of the right people. And he played — in practices, as part of a 7-on-7 flag team that toured the mid-Atlantic, and at camps in Syracuse, Penn State, Georgia, Rutgers, Florida and UConn.

At Rutgers, Craig ran a 4.6-second 40-yard sprint and dominated 1-on-1 practices. He did so as a 2026 class player grouped exclusively with 2023 and 2024 players (junior and senior ). It’s always been that way, with Craig lining up against older and bigger players and standing out with athletic gifts that will make him one of the most coveted prep players in the country for the next four years.

“We let him know it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” Wholey said. “Quite honestly, it’s a stress reliever that he’s going to college for free. And while it’s great to be highly ranked and highly recruited, the goal should be for him to prepare as well as possible. When you have that, the outside stuff doesn’t matter. And he’s got the maturity to handle that. He’s got the injury-free demeanor. I think he’s just going to be pushed to improve, and the fact is that he still has a long way to go.

Craig will play a lot in first year on both sides of the ball. He will share running back duties with Luke Thorbahn, a postgraduate player who is four years older. Wholey said a player who runs 4.6 as a freshman usually runs a 4.3 by the time he’s graduated from high school. He expects Craig to adapt to his new situation and be a dominant player in the second year.

Wholey has known Craig for many years. He recruited Gillespie as a UConn assistant, making a house call.

“He was playing with a nine-year-old Tonka truck,” Wholey said.

Craig is extremely close to Gillespie, who attended Capital Prep at Hartford before UConn. He has since transferred to Monroe College in New York. They have the same mother, Kia Williams, who works in a school in New Britain. Craig’s father, Tai Craig, is a mechanic. Both parents are active and support him in all his activities.

Craig wore a pair of his brother’s UConn cleats during training last week.

“I always wanted to be like Ky,” Craig said. “There was no one else I wanted to be like. He’s the reason I play football. If he wasn’t playing football, I don’t know what I would do. He’s my big brother.

The brothers grew up competing in the backyard and training on courts near their home in Hartford. They talk almost every day. Gillespie knows what it’s like to be recruited by FBS programs.

“He just wasn’t as young as me,” Craig said.

Nobody in Connecticut was.

“He’s a big brother who dreams of seeing his little brother take control of everything!” Gillespie tweeted in May, responding to Craig’s video clips.

When a mutual friend tweeted to celebrate that Craig received many scholarship offers on June 2, Gillespie replied, “It’s the middle schooler with school in the morning”, with two laughing emojis .

Yeah, that’s kind of fun and funny, an eighth-grader in the middle of all this serious football business. Craig, who loves history lessons and video games, will likely pick a college in 2025, after his freshman year.

“I got these offers quickly, but they can also be taken down pretty quickly,” Craig said. “I will never take them for granted. I make sure to always keep that in mind.

[email protected]; @ManthonyHearst

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