Brandon Graham, the former Crockett and University of Michigan star, has taken his tackles for losses and sacks to the NFL Philadelphia Eagles.
Graham, a defensive end, was drafted by the Eagles in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft with the 13th selection in the draft. He was also the first player draft out of the Big Ten Conference.
Following his tenure at Michigan and in Detroit’s Public School League, Graham earned a smorgasbord of accolades. He was chosen as the Chicago Tribune Silver Football recipient as the Big Ten co-MVP (with Pen State’s Daryll Clark), becoming the seventh defensive player to earn the award and second in the last 25 years.
In his senior year at UM, Graham posted 26 tackles for loses in 12 games, which led the nation along with 10.5 sacks. For his superior effort he was a 2009 First-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media and First-team 2009 College Football All-American Team selected by ESPN, Rivals.com and Scout.com. Then he went to the NFL Combine and placed 8th among defensive linemen with a 4.72 40-yard dash and 10th in the bench press.
Graham took care of business and signed a five-year contract on July 29, 2010 and promptly went to the Eagles camp and earned the starting defensive end position. Playing at home in Ford Field against his home team, the Detroit Lions, in week two, he recorded his first NFL sack.
“Man, I have close to 300 friends and family members here,” he exclaimed “It feels great to be back home. I was kind of homesick when I first got to Philly, so this is just great to get back to some home cooking.”
Graham said that the adjustment to the NFL was not extreme, but he did have to work on some things.
“I just went to camp and played my game,” he said. “What I had to realize in the NFL is that every game is important, but I tried not to overflow my radiator and stay within what the defensive game plan is.
“The speed of the players at this level is incredible. Also, I’m learning my check downs and recognizing the schemes that the offense is trying to run”
Graham said the he is totally focused on football and as a professional he is dedicated to his conditioning and game preparation from week to week.
“I’m trying to do everything they ask of me,” he said. “But sometimes when I reflect as to where I am, it is still a little hazy. It really has not all sunk in yet. Being in the NFL, starting and getting paid to play the game I love is a dream come true.”
Playing in a city like Philadelphia, which has experienced very positive football success during the Donovan McNabb era, Graham said he knew he was coming to a team and city that had high expectations and demands.
“I knew that I had to have my stuff together when I came to training camp,” he explained. “Everyone has told me this city can be hard on you if you do not come prepared. As their No. 1 pick, sure all the fans were looking at me to see if I was worth that pick. In a way is like playing at the University of Michigan where people expected a winning team, but I must admit this is another level.”
Graham also noted that he has been keeping his eye on Michigan. He is not surprised that this year’s team is off to a good start and that Rodriguez is finally getting his system in place.
“No one was willing to give Rich a chance,” he recalled, “but I knew it was a matter of time. He is a good coach and person.”
Eagles coach Andy Reid told reporters that Brandon was everything they thought he would be and they would draft him without question.
He is No. 54 in your program, but without question No. 1 in the heart of Crockett alumni and PSL watchers everywhere.
Leland Stein can be reached at email@example.com.