On Thursday night, the Philadelphia Eagles agreed to a five-year deal with first-round pick Brandon Graham. The former Michigan standout becomes the seventh first-round pick from this year’s class to reach a deal with his team and he’s expected to report to training camp at Lehigh University on Friday.
Graham was selected by the Eagles with the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft after an impressive four-year career with the Wolverines. He was considered one of the top defensive lineman in from the 2010 class and talented enough for Philadelphia to trade up 10 picks just so they could acquire him.
Throughout his high school and college career, Graham has always played football in the state of Michigan. Now that he’s officially come to terms with the team, Graham is ready to take that next step in his football conquest–playing professional football for the Eagles.
“It’s been a long journey with long days and hard nights,” Graham explained about his road to the NFL. “But it’s been a great experience and I wouldn ’t trade it in for anything. The dedication I’ve put into this sport is finally starting to pay off. Now, I can finally show everyone what I’m made of—and that’s the exciting part.”
If any player knows the definition of hard work, it’s Graham. Not only was Graham honored with numerous awards during his final two years as a Wolverine, but he became the first player in Michigan history to win defensive MVP twice and led the nation his senior year with 26 tackles for a loss.
Rookies missing part of training camp has become a common theme for most teams over the years–especially with this year’s class. Of the 32 picks from the first round, 25 remain without deals as of Friday—which is why it came as no surprise Graham was still unsigned prior to Thursday night.
The Eagles and Graham knew it was all a matter of time before both sides came to an agreement. While the veterans were scheduled to report to camp for the first time on Friday, the rookies reported to camp on Monday—which means Graham missed four days of practices. Despite his absence, Graham is eager to get on the field and show everyone how far he’s come as a rookie.
“The biggest thing is to let them know that I haven’t fell off since minicamps ," Graham said. “I still know everything they’ve taught me and I want to go in there and keep learning as much as I can—especially when it comes to technique.”
Ask any rookie; the transition from playing at a college level to a professional level can be difficult and can seem overwhelming at times.
Some players from smaller schools have to adjust to playing in front of larger crowds at the professional level. Lucky for Graham, playing in front of 68,000+ fans at Lincoln Financial Field should be easy for him, considering the Big House at Michigan holds over 100,000.
While playing in front of large crowds each Sunday won’t be an issue, there is one adjustment that Graham will have to get used to now that he’ll be participating in Eagles Training Camp: practicing while thousands of fans watch as spectators.
“I know they’re excited and I’m excited for them to see me on the field. That’s going to be the fun part. Going to training camp everyday and practicing in front of 20,000 fans. That’s one of the greatest things to be a part of since I never got to experience that at Michigan because we had closed practices. It’s going to provide me with extra motivation when I’m out there.”
Like most athletes in this generation, Graham loves to connect with his fans through popular social media networking sites like Facebook and Twitter . One of the best experiences for Graham as an athlete is the way he gets to interact with his fans on these sites, which is part of the reason why he’s excited to see some of them at camp over the next few weeks.
The city of Philadelphia has every reason in the world to be excited about Graham during his rookie season. Not only has he shown what he’s capable of doing during his time at Michigan, but just from speaking with him it’s clear Graham has a strong work ethic and enough determination to play a key role in the Eagles’ defense during his rookie season.
Sure, he may see a few bumps along the way while he makes the transition to the NFL, but most rookies do. If anything, Graham contains the right mentality to work his way through the process.
“It’s something new and you want to go out there and give it your best,” Graham said about the transition to the NFL. “You know you’re going to go out and make a lot of mistakes, but at the same time, as long as you capitalize the mistakes—that’s all you can ask for.”
A special thanks to Brandon Graham for taking the time to talk with me after announcing his deal with the Eagles.
Dan Parzych is the Eagles Fan Voice for NFLTouchdown.com.
He is also the founder of the new NFCEastFootball.com.
Questions or comments, feel free to email Dan: firstname.lastname@example.org