Jimmy Graham Finding His Way
Jimmy Graham is overwhelmingly athletic. The fact that he’s only played organized football for one and a half seasons, and is now scoring touchdowns for the defending Super Bowl champions is evidence of his sheer athleticism. Sheldon Mickles of the advocate notes of Graham’s continuing development.
As a relative newcomer to football, one of the first lessons rookie Jimmy Graham got when he joined the New Orleans Saints this spring came from veteran tight end David Thomas.
“David Thomas said, ‘Rookies need to be seen and not heard,’” a smiling Graham said Tuesday. “So this is probably the last time I’ll ever have a camera in my face.”
The fact Graham was talking to several reporters in front of his locker, however, was a clear sign that Thomas has had enough fun with their third-round draft pick.
Thomas officially gave the OK for Graham to talk after Sunday’s 34-3 win over the Carolina Panthers, a game in which the 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end got his first NFL touchdown. He wound up with three catches for a career-high 49 yards.
Graham, a former University of Miami basketball player, got the equivalent of a thunderous slam dunk Sunday when he snared a 19-yard scoring pass from Drew Brees late in the second quarter against the Panthers.
Graham celebrated by running to the back of the end zone, faking a “Lambeau Leap” into the stands and letting the ball roll off his fingertips like he was making a layup in basketball.
While he made a basketball move there, Brees said there’s no doubt Graham’s future is in football — like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, former college basketball players who became All-Pro tight ends.
“I’m excited about him, you see the potential and you see it starting to click,” Brees said. “It takes a little while, especially for a guy like him who’s used to being on the hoops court and putting the cleats on and coming on the field — especially at this level.
“It’s a lot to take in with the adjustments, speed of the game and the physicality. And there’s a new offense and defenses, and all those things. But he’s such a talented guy, and he wants to be good &hellip he wants to be great.”
Graham’s contributions have been limited so far, mainly because he played college football for only one season and then missed much of training camp after spraining his right ankle in the preseason opener.
“Definitely, I think things are slowing down for me,” said Graham, who uses his off day each Tuesday to watch tapes of Gonzalez and Gates. “That’s the biggest thing, being able to recognize what’s going on out there. Just being more confident and knowing what’s going on within our offense.
“People forget, or don’t realize, how complicated our offense can be — especially for a rookie who’s only been playing (football) for a year. I’m continually learning and getting better at those things. That’s changed a lot for me recently, and it seems like things are coming together.”
Graham wants to be a playmaker for the Saints. He’s not the only one that wants that.
“I definitely want to be a playmaker,” he said. “And I definitely want to be a guy Brees can count on to get that first down for him.”
Graham is well on his way, Payton said.
“He just keeps getting better,” he said. “He’s a tremendous worker, he’s very smart, he’s very athletic and he has soft hands. We just have to keep giving him opportunities.
“He plays with a lot of confidence. You don’t see a first-year player in his eyes on the sideline or in the huddle, and that’s encouraging.”
While he’s heard from several veterans that he’ll be called “rook” until training camp begins next summer, Graham doesn’t mind going along with it.
As such, he’s had to carry veterans’ shoulder pads and helmets into the locker room after training camp practices and had to bring doughnuts on Saturday mornings — another time-honored NFL tradition.
Great piece by Mickles. I’m enjoying watching the “rook” blossom into a soon to be playmaker.