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AP photo by David Stephenson / Austin Peay quarterback JaVaughn Craig, a former McCallie standout, passes during the Governors' game against Kentucky on Nov. 19, 2016, in Lexington.

JaVaughn Craig understands the importance of leadership.

The former McCallie standout student-athlete has become a beacon of light not only on the football field but off it as well.

Craig led Austin Peay to incredible heights as the Governors won their first Ohio Valley Conference championship in 42 years with a program-record 11-win season last fall.

Fueled by his faith, work ethic, charisma and a game-changing dual-threat ability, Craig achieved All-America status as he totaled 3,939 yards and 37 touchdowns in an unforgettable final ride.

From the day he arrived on campus in Clarksville, he made a difference at the school he chose over 23 other Division I offers.

As a freshman he set a school record with 466 total yards against Tennessee State. In his final year, he set program records for passing yards in a season (3,208) and touchdowns in a game (seven), and he became a conference champion on his birthday, Nov. 23, with a five-touchdown performance.

"I hold myself to a very high standard, and I always believe I can be better no matter what type of performance I may have," Craig said. "I know that my talents are God given and without him, the things I do would not be possible.

"I love the game and being able to represent something bigger than myself on the field. I have been blessed with an opportunity millions of kids dream of. Being able to use my platform to inspire others and give hope to people through my story is the ultimate wow for me."

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AP photo by David Stephenson / Austin Peay quarterback JaVaughn Craig passes over Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen in the first half on Nov. 19, 2016, in Lexington.

Awaiting his moment and staying patient was key as Craig was not the starting quarterback heading into the 2019 season.

However, he was completely equipped to lead the charge after Govs starter Jeremiah Oatsvall sustained a season-ending injury in the second game. After a 4-3 start, Austin Peay caught fire behind the guidance of the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Craig.

The Govs went on a seven-game winning streak in which they averaged 41 points. During the streak, Craig completed 61.5% of his passes (115-of-187) while totaling 23 touchdowns (18 passing, five rushing) compared to just six interceptions.

Craig saved two of his grandest performances for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. In a first-round rout of Furman, Austin Peay's first playoff win in program history, he completed 18 of 23 passes with three touchdowns. The following week he rushed for a career-high 164 yards in a 42-28 win against Sacramento State.

"It was important for me to be sure that my education, diet and nutrition, film study, extra preparation with my teammates and recovery were all taken care of in order for me to perform at a high level," Craig said. "Nothing beats getting to play on Saturdays and being surrounded by guys from different walks of life. We all came together to strive towards a goal, and accomplishing that was a feeling like no other."

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Staff file photo / Former McCallie quarterback JaVaughn Craig capped his time as a college football player by leading the Austin Peay Governors on a deep run in the 2019 FCS playoffs.

Austin Peay did not win a single game Craig's freshman year, which added to the program's 29-game losing streak.

Eventually the Chattanooga native helped the Govs turn into one of the best stories of the 2019 college football season.

Craig graduated with a degree in political science last month and will spend this summer as an intern to a congressman in the nation's capital. If the opportunity to play professional football presents itself, he said he will be fully prepared.

With his faith and family as his two greatest influences, the former Blue Tornado star understands what it means to lead in all walks of life.

"I want to be remembered as a man of God who spreads light and hope to the world," Craig said. "I want to inspire people of all ages to strive for something greater than themselves. I want my life story to help point the world to Jesus Christ.

"You are only given one life to live. There is no rewind button. You can achieve anything you put your mind to. Set your goals high, dream big and chase after them. Strive to be more than just an athlete. Be an artist, a doctor, a lawyer, a pilot. Being an athlete will come and go, but the platform you have as an athlete will last forever. I encourage all to use your platform to change the world. God loves us and he is for us. And with him, all things are possible."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

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