By Paul M. Banks
Wisconsin Badgers Tight End Garrett Graham received probably his best endorsement on Big Ten Media Day. “I’ll never forget, I think it was my first year. He had a routine play coming out of bounds where he got tangled up in some chains and he came and had a huge three-inch cut where his arm was hanging open with muscle exposed.
He went inside and had it stitched up and was playing a quarter later. They originally told me he wasn’t going to play at all. That kind of gives a little synopsis of what he’s all about,” said Badgers Head Coach in describing Graham.
This past off-season Graham exercised his option with the National Football League advisory board to see how his draft stock was doing. Heading into this senior year, he looks like a 4th-5th rounder. Graham knows what he has to do to improve his stock. “I can fine-tune my route-running and my techniques in blocking: stuff like footwork, hand and (helmet) placement. Like everyone else, I want consistency,” Graham said.
Despite missing two games from injury last season, he still led Wisconsin in receiving; with 40 catches for 540 yards and 5 TDs. He made a big leap in production from ’07 to ’08, and of he makes a similar leap this fall, he could likely hear his name called on the NFL Draft’s first day. He’s been working hard with the Badgers conditioning program, which includes a varied program on Fridays, consisting of lifting heavy objects and flipping truck tires. So if Graham continues working out like the guys you see late night on ESPN2 in the “World’s Strongest Man” competitions perhaps he could be the next Tony Gonzalez or Jay Novacek.
“I’m really excited for Garrett to come into his own. Kind of embodies all the things we like about Wisconsin. Just developed year-end, red-shirted he came in and began to make noise a little bit a year ago. I think he is really set for a special season,” Bielema stated. And the media thinks so as well, as he’s a 2009 preseason first team All-Big Ten selection by Athlon and Lindy’s. Last year he was an all-conference first team selection by the media and a second team choice from the coaches.
Graham’s drive to succeed comes from his idolization of perhaps the most competitive person in history. When asked at Media Day, if he could have dinner with anyone of his choice he said “Michael Jordan, because he’s such a great athlete and just to hear what he has to say, I know he can be quite inspirational,” Graham responded. So indeed he wants to “be like Mike.” Graham has had plenty of praise already, but he certainly as his eyes set on something more.