Cranford working on trip to Down Bowl

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR STAFF
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   Two years before Daniel Cranford was born, the Australian music group Men at Work sang of coming from a land down under. Twenty-one years later, Cranford is making plans of going to the land down under himself.
   He is one of several graduating American high school football players invited to participate in the Down Under Bowl in Australia this year.
   "I got the invitation in the mail and they ask you to go out and get the funds to make the trip," said Cranford, who wore No. 48 for the Johnson County Longhorns this past season. "I can't wait. It's got to be a great experience going to another country."
   Over 10,000 American football players have participated in the Down Under
   Bowl since its inception in 1989. The most famous players that have made the trek to Australia are Denver Bronco quarterback Jake "The Snake" Plummer and Green Bay Packer tailback Ahman Green.
   Keeping closer ties, Cranford's two brothers Adam and Jesse, also are former players in the Down Under Bowl as well as another ex-Longhorn, Trent Snyder.
   "My brothers told me to take a lot of pictures because you will see things different over there than you can see around here," said Cranford. "They say it's a blast, one of the best experiences of your lifetime. They say the football is awesome. Watching them go, gave me a lot of inspiration to do this."
   Older brother Jesse, who played in the all-star game in 2002, commented on his journey to a land famous for kangaroos and the Crocodile Hunter.
   "It made me feel like I was growing up," said Jesse. "It was a life-changing experience. Even though you are with a group of football players, you are on your own. I was there 13 days, including two days in Hawaii for some r-and-r. It is a wonderful experience."
   The younger Cranford's credentials for being chosen to participate includes being named Mountain Lakes Defensive Player of the Year as a linebacker in 2003 and being named honorable mention All-State.
   "I played every game like it was my last," said Cranford. "It made me feel good that out of all the players that play and work so hard I was chosen for the awards.
   "I've had a blast at Johnson County High School playing sports, football and track. It just seems like this senior year has gone by so fast. I know I will miss so many of my friends I've went to school with."
   It's doubtful that Cranford will get homesick of Mountain City on this trip. Most of the American players are too busy on this journey, wrapped up in the excitement of learning about a new culture first hand. The event also gives promising Australian football players the opportunity to test their mettle against American counterparts, with hopes by some of playing collegiately in the states.
   "My brothers have told me they are pretty intense," said Cranford about the foreign players. "They were just learning the game when Adam played over there, but now they are more familiar with the rules. They have told me those players are all real athletic and real competitive."
   When Cranford, one of the most competitive and athletic players in this area the past season, joins up with the top players from the state of Tennessee, they will have a winning tradition on their side. Last year's all-stars from the Volunteer State teamed with players from Oregon, Nevada and Louisiana to win the 2003 Down Under Bowl Division E title.
   They beat a team of top players from Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina before dispatching of a team of New Zealand standouts.
   Going to a land halfway around the world is an expensive proposition with the local community active in their support of Cranford. A barbecue was sponsored last Saturday by Robert Frick, the owner of Robert's Barber Shop, in an effort that raised funds. In addition, Matt Hill, the sports editor of Cranford's hometown newspaper, "The Tomahawk" has featured two stories on the fund-raising efforts.
   "The community is doing good in their support of me," said Cranford. "The barber that cuts my hair decided to do a cook-out and it raised a lot of money. A lot of people made donations. Matt Hill has helped me quite a bit by helping the community know about trip and the cook-out.
   "I just want to thank the community and everyone who has supported me, especially my parents for all of their involvement."
   For those interested in making a contribution towards Cranford's trip to the Down Under Bowl, the address is Daniel Cranford, 900 Arnold Town Road, Mountain City, TN, 37683.