Licking Heights High School teacher and coach Mike Vyrostek will represent and honor the late Mike Craig of Johnstown when he rides on the Donate Life float Jan. 1 in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

Licking Heights High School teacher and coach Mike Vyrostek will represent and honor the late Mike Craig of Johnstown when he rides on the Donate Life float Jan. 1 in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

Vyrostek, known as "Mr. V," helped finish decorating a floral portrait of Mike Craig at Columbus' Lifeline of Ohio on Dec. 11, along with Craig's wife Gail and adult children Chris and Molly Craig.

Mike Craig, a Johnstown High School science teacher and football coach, was electrocuted while working on the air conditioner at his home in 2002. At his death at the age of 51, Craig became a tissue donor. His eyes, heart valves, bone, ligaments and tendons were recovered for donation as well.

The floral portrait of Craig, a Newark native and 1969 graduate of Newark Catholic High School, is sponsored by the American Association of Tissue Banks and is one of 77 that will be featured on the Donate Life float. Craig's portrait is made of all organic materials including ground coffee beans for his eyes, white rice for his teeth and cream of wheat for his face.

The "New Life Rises" themed float will be the fourth in line at the Rose Parade and will feature a phoenix, the mythical symbol of life coming out of the ashes of death and rising from a bed of flames 30 feet into the sky. The Donate Life phoenix represents those who gave life in their passing and the people whose lives are renewed through transplantation.

The bird will soar high above 24 float riders, all transplant recipients and family members of deceased donors. The phoenix's tail feathers will be adorned with dozens of floral portraits, including Craig's, that depict loved ones who gave life to those in need.

Vyrostek told The Independent it will an honor to ride on the float, representing the Craig family and Lifeline of Ohio.

After he became friends with Chris Craig on the College of Wooster football team, Vyrostek tore his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). In order to continue playing football, he needed donated tissue to rebuild his knee.

Gail Craig called Lifeline to see if any of her husband's donated tissue was still available and if it would be possible to have a direct donation to Vyrostek.

Remarkably, the tissue was available and matched.

Vyrostek, of Pataskala, was the first directed tissue recipient that was facilitated by Lifeline of Ohio.

If he hadn't met Chris Craig and received the tissue donation, Vyrostek said he isn't sure what career path he would have taken.

He shares Mike Craig's story whenever he has the opportunity and he's continuing his legacy as a teacher and coach.

Vyrostek, 25, is in his third year teaching American history at Licking Heights, where he's also varsity football coach.

Vyrostek also met his wife, Johnstown native Stephanie Shoaf, through Chris Craig.

"He doesn't let me live it down," Vyrostek said. "She's an RN at Licking Memorial Hospital in Newark."

Vyrostek said he was excited about riding in the Rose Parade, then he was even more amazed after learning the Ohio State Buckeyes would play in the Rose Bowl -- a first since the Buckeyes played Arizona State 1997.

"I took charge and ordered tickets to the game for everyone who's going -- 10 altogether," he said.

Gail Craig said she doesn't like to travel, but she's excited for her children to attend the parade and football game.

She said it's comforting to inform others about tissue and organ donation, and she's grateful her husband could help others through donation.

"It's one of the few positive things that come out of tragedy," she said. "We can educate people in this way. I'm happy and I know the kids are proud."

The Rose Parade starts at 8 a.m. Jan. 1 and will be broadcast on ABC, NBC, HGTV, Travel Channel and Discovery Channel, among other stations.