Tucker Kraft gets ready for his final game with SDSU before entering the NFL Draft

Timber Lake native bounces back from injury to help his teammates make the FCS title game
Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 11:10 PM CST
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BROOKINGS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Tucker Kraft has one final college football game to play when he takes the field at Toyota Stadium against NDSU.

After that, he will enter the NFL draft as one of the top tight ends in the country. And as Zach Borg tells us, being good at his craft is only a small part of what make Tucker special.

Expression is never a problem for Tucker Kraft. “I want people to see what they’ll get from me all the time. I’m a pretty open book.” SDSU Junior TE Tucker Kraft says.

Something he learned a decade ago during a conversation with his father Doug, a former track and football All-American at Huron College. “Just how to be ‘The Guy’ and not ‘That Guy’. ‘The Guy’ everyone wants to be around him, he’s a good person, he brings something to the table whether it’s intellect or humor or just kindness. And then you don’t want to be ‘That Guy’, someone that is just kind of on the fringe of most friendships, he’s not the first you would call if you were in trouble, in fact he might be the last person.” Tucker says.

Months later Doug was killed in a small plane crash. “I don’t know what path I would have been on had I had my dad with me until today. Obviously I miss him very much. It’s the people that find a way to get through things that set their own paths.” Kraft says.

Tucker worked tirelessly to became a standout athlete at Timber Lake, earning a scholarship at South Dakota State, and breaking out as a sophomore in the fall of 2021 with 65 catches and a skill set that put him on NFL Draft radars.

It also had him getting six figure NIL offers to transfer to larger schools. “I built relationships here with the guys that I’ll have for life. I wasn’t going to leave them to be a sellout.” Tucker says.

Kraft’s 2022 season was put in jeopardy minutes after it began. “As soon as I’d been hit I’m like that hurts. A lot. That’s top five pain I’ve ever been in. As far as I’m concerned I’m lucky. I didn’t break a bone. I seperated my Tibia and Fibia but I didn’t break them.” Kraft says.

Aggravating the injury could risk millions for his professional future, yet there really was no choice for Tucker. “I had to come back for them (teammates). And I had to come back to get film. I was told that I could have just not played another down this entire season and I would have still been fine. But I wanted to come back and play at a high level.” Kraft says.

“Our guys can relate and reference the hard work Tucker’s put in in terms of ball skills and blocking skills and so on. And then something really unique I think to turn down six figures NIL money to stay I think makes a statement that not a lot of young people make now a days.” SDSU Head Coach John Stiegelmeier says.

As well as help Kraft make the decision to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft. “I’ve never like really thought about doing football and taking my skills to the next level as doing it for me. I’ve always thought about doing it for other people. Setting my family up for generational wealth.” Kraft says.

That will happen after Tucker’s final game against North Dakota State when he takes the field one last time with his football family, true to the lessons a son learned from his father. “I respect NDSU as a football team. But what I want to do when I get on the football field is embarass the person across from me. And it’s going to be a simple as that and I’m going to do it one play at a time.” Tucker says.