MADISON — Josh "Big Guy" Craddock has always been in love with the game of football.
The Madison resident and Special Teams Coach at Scott High School said that as a child, he had to watch from what is now a familiar place - the sidelines.
"I was diagnosed with Noonan Syndrome and with that came some heart problems," he said. "I couldn't play sports because of the stress it puts on the heart."
Craddock had kidney surgery at 8 months-old and eye surgery before he started elementary school. His doctor's haven't ruled out open heart surgery in the future. For today, he's getting the most out of each day.
"I'm lucky in so many ways," he said. "I just keep going. I keep moving and I do things that I love, like coaching these guys."
Noonan syndrome is a genetic disorder that prevents normal development in various parts of the body. A person can be affected by it in a wide variety of ways.
Craddock was a sixth grader who wanted to be close to the game and Scott Coach Shane Griffith gave him that opportunity as the team manager.
"It meant the world to me," he said. "It was incredible. I learned a lot and just listened to coach and kept working hard, even then. Once I graduated (2006) I went and took my coaching class and never left."
An astute student of the game, Craddock feels that coaching gives him focus and an opportunity to help others in more ways than on the field.
"I love helping kids," he said. "Good coaches teach more than the game. I want them to work hard and be a responsible adult when they get to that point. Football is the best sport because it builds character and those lessons you can use for the rest of your life."
Craddock's responsibilities go beyond special teams play, he also helps out with wide receivers and defense. He can't remember a time when football wasn't in his life, or at least on his mind.
"It has always been with me and never let me down," he said. "I'm always online looking for better ways to teach it and I study a lot. Anything that can help a kid progress. That is my job."
Craddock said that coaching under Griffith is like a dream come true and he doesn't take it for granted.
When Griffith retired from his first stint as the Skyhawk football coach in 2015, Craddock went with him for a season at Van High before returning to his staff with him this spring for a reunion of a collection of coaches who saw six straight playoff appearances which helped vault Griffith to the status as the schools all-time leader in victories (98).
"I love it and I love Coach," he said. "He gave me a chance and that is all I needed."
Griffith remembers his first encounter with his friend.
"I think Josh defines what black and gold football was and what we want it to become again," he said. "We go back together some time. His brother Ryan played for me and their mom worked on the county bus transportation department during summer school. She came to me and introduced herself. She said that she hated for him to be on the bus all day. She wanted to know if he could just watch practice because all he talked about was football. I looked at him and he was this tiny guy and I gave him the job of keeping the water bottles full. That is when he got the nickname, "Big Guy" and it just stuck.
Griffith said that his assistant has never missed a practice or football-related event.
"He's accepted roles that (sports writers) aren't interested in writing about," Griffith added. "He wasn't a player. He did things that needed to be done and weren't glamorous. He encapsulates what our program is. If there is laundry to be done, he'll be down here in the middle of the night doing it. Whatever it takes, we can depend on Josh."
Craddock makes his living as a field technician for a company who performs water sampling tests. He said that he enjoys his work, despite some challenges he faces.
"These hot days I have to pace myself and know when to slow down and I have to watch out for my heart walking the hills sometimes," he said. "level ground doesn't bother me at all. Coaching doesn't bother me. I try to stay in the best shape I can so that I can move easier. I do like to eat, so I have that to deal with, too."
Craddock said that he has no aspirations to be a head coach. He is happy doing what he's doing. He's living his dream.
"It would be flattering I guess to be considered for a head coaching job," he added. "I just can't imagine a situation being better than the one I have here. Its the best. It couldn't possibly be better than here with my coaches and these kids."
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-307-2402.