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Graham Scores First TD In Homecoming

Courtesy—James Varney/Times-Picayune

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is a Carolina guy, and he had quite a homecoming Sunday.

Graham caught three passes for 49 yards and included in that total was his first NFL touchdown, a 19-yard grab in the second quarter that put New Orleans ahead 14-3. Graham ran to the stadium wall and tried to flip the ball into the stands, but avoided the league fine that comes with that postscore gesture when the ball hit the rail and fell back to the turf.

“That was a fake,” Graham insisted. “I was going to jump and I faked and gave them a little finger roll. I actually still have the ball in my possession.”

Understandably, Graham was beaming after the game, which was witnessed by many members of his adopted family led by Becky Vinson, a nurse who took Graham in as a boy after his mother had abandoned him at a youth home.

“For me, I’m from North Carolina, and to come back and get a big win like that, and to catch a deep pass from Drew Brees is every bit as amazing as I thought it would be,” he said. “Rebecca Vinson and my little sister and Miss Karena (Vinson’s daughter), and it’s amazing to have them get to experience that with me.”

Graham has never sentimentalized or avoided the details of his upbringing, which saw him rise above situations that have wrecked many to become a University of Miami graduate who was honored at commencement by the school president before becoming a third-round pick by the Saints in April.

But there are happy endings, and he got one Sunday.

“Obviously, (Vinson) helped give me … and saved me in high school, and now for her to be here for this special moment was priceless.”

All indications, however, are that Graham will have more such special moments. He got his first start against the Carolina Panthers, and he appears to be a growing part of the Saints’ offense as his football smarts increase and he becomes more comfortable with the system.

Brees said as much when asked about the rookie’s breakout performance.

“I’m happy for him,” Brees said. “He’s a guy whose role continues to grow within the offense. He’s a really talented player who is kind of young and green, but I think you see flashes like that of a guy who can really be a big-play guy in this offense. And I think for him to just continue to grind along and learn and take advantage of every opportunity he gets, but I was happy for him today.”

Graham, typically, remained humble.

“I just wait until my number’s called, and I know that I’m there on special teams and I’m there to back up (Jeremy) Shockey,” he said. “I just take every bit that I can from him and learn from him and hopefully each game I can take a step forward and help us win games.”

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