Cranford earns spot at ETSU

By Matt Hill

   JOHNSON CITY- Johnson County High School has quickly become a pipeline for East Tennessee State athletics.
   The latest former Longhorn standout to join an ETSU athletic squad is Adam Cranford. The 2000 Johnson County High School graduate has made ETSU's football team.
   Cranford joins April Arnold and Chris Gambill as former Johnson County standouts to make a Buccaneer roster. Arnold started for two years on the ETSU softball squad, while Gambill is now a part of the ETSU baseball program.
   Cranford started his college career at Mars Hill, but decided he needed a change of scenery. He walked on at ETSU, and impressed the Buccaneer coaching staff enough to earn a spot on the team.
   "I started out at Mars Hill, and played down there for awhile," Cranford said. "I wanted to get closer to home. I like the coaching program and the things they've got going over here. As a team there are no individuals. I just like the program here."
   And so far, ETSU head football coach Paul Hamilton likes what he sees from Cranford.
   "Adam's an outstanding young man," Hamilton said. "He's somebody we're very proud to have as a part of our football team. He's made a deep commitment to try and be a college football player. He's working every day to get better, but the thing that makes you proud of him is he comes to work every day. He wants to help this football team be successful in any way he can."
   Cranford is a real coachable player that has bought into Hamilton's system. Cranford is grateful to the coaching staff for this opportunity.
   "It's a good team," Cranford said. "They've got a good coaching staff. They have really got a good program going around here. I've just got to give the team a lot of credit. They're just doing a real good job around here. The coaches are just unbelievable. They've got a good thing going around here."
   Cranford's high school days will be something he won't forget. Cranford holds the record for most receptions by a Johnson County tight end.
   But more importantly, he was part of the rebirth of the Longhorn program. Cranford was a senior on the 1999 squad that made the playoffs for the first time since 1988.
   "That was about when we got that program started again," Cranford said.
   Cranford was very proud of his teammates that were left the fall after graduation, when the Longhorns went 8-3.
   "They had 14 or 15 seniors that year," Cranford said. "They had a lot of growing up to do from my senior year. Their senior year they did a real good job."
   Cranford thinks that the coaching staff at Johnson County did an outstanding job with getting the program in the right direction after being down for so long.
   "The weightlifting program really helped out a lot," Cranford said. "Once Coach (Mike) Atwood got up there, he started building a program. Everybody started hanging out and coming together as a team. That really makes a winning season.
   "Coach Atwood's done a real good job. Ever since he got there he's built it up a little bit more and has been making a better system. And the weight program has really helped out a lot. Coach (Billy) Icenhour has done some unbelievable things."
   Cranford definitely made an impact with the Longhorns, and he hopes to do the same as a Buccaneer.
   Cranford says he's off to a good start.
   "I'm competing real good right now," Cranford said. "I came here in the spring as a wide receiver, and I was doing pretty good at that. I tore my hamstring in the spring, and came back in the summer. They weren't going to let me on the team, but they saw that I was working real hard and they let me on the 90. I'm playing pretty good at tight end right now. I've just got to put on a little bit more weight, and there's a good chance of me traveling, too."
   Cranford is happy to be competing at the Division I-AA level. He realizes what an honor it is to be playing in the Southern Conference.
   "It's a real competitive level," Cranford said. "They've got people coming from all over that have been all-state. It's a real honor to be able to come out here and be able to compete with these guys."
   Cranford is also proud to have two brothers that have been as successful as he has been.
   Jesse Cranford, like Adam, was a defensive end for the Longhorns. And Daniel Cranford is currently a starter for Johnson County.
   "We've got a legacy of defensive ends going on up there," Cranford said. "I think pretty much everybody in the conference knows about the Cranfords at defensive end. Jesse came in as a sophomore and did a real good job. He was an all-conference defensive end in 4A this year.
   "And I believe Daniel is playing a little bit of free safety and defensive end right now, and I understand he's done a real good job at running back. And he's punting, too. I understand he's the best punter that Johnson County has had in a long time."
   Cranford is happy to be a Buccaneer, but he makes it clear that he's also still a Longhorn.
   He's very happy to be representing Johnson County High School.
   "I love going back home, and everybody's congratulating me," Cranford said. "They're so proud of me. I just feel real good about representing Johnson County. It's about time somebody came up here and is able to represent them real good."