Central High School senior Mitch Craft has decided to take his football talents south.
Craft, a second-team Class 4 all-state quarterback last season and the Southeast Missourian's player of the year, has been invited to join the University of Southern Mississippi program as a walk-on.
Craft will report to Hattiesburg, Miss., on June 30, begin summer conditioning work with the Eagles in early July and then start fall practice in early August.
"I'm really excited about it," Craft said.
Craft said he had a scholarship offer from Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State University and he at one time thought he would definitely play for the Indians, but he ultimately felt I-A Southern Mississippi was the place for him.
"I gave a lot of thought to SEMO. It was tough because the coaches and players were great," Craft said. "But I thought I'd go some place else, see what else is out there."
Craft, a three-year starter at Central who passed for nearly 2,100 yards and rushed for almost 500 yards last season, said he has dreamed of attending Southern Mississippi for several years -- ever since reading a magazine article about current NFL star and former Southern Mississippi standout Brett Favre.
"It's a great atmosphere and I've always loved the South," Craft said.
Craft, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder, said Southern Mississippi coaches contacted him a couple of months ago after receiving game film on him. They invited him for two visits during spring practice and made him feel right at home.
"The head coach, Jeff Bower, came up during the middle of practice, took me aside, shook my hand and said he was real glad I came down," Craft said. "He said he saw me on tape, I did a lot of great things and he couldn't wait for me to get down there this summer."
Craft realizes there is no guarantee he'll ever be placed on scholarship or even get in a game, but he's willing to work hard and take his chances.
"They didn't promise me anything, but they seemed real excited about having me," he said.
Southern Mississippi went 9-4 last season, won the Conference USA title and lost to Memphis in the Liberty Bowl.