Based on his parents resume, it isn’t surprising T.J. Graham is involved in athletics. What is surprising is the sport he chose. Instead of following his parents path into track and field, Graham opted for football and will now attempt to make the Bills look smart for selecting him in the third round of last month’s draft.
Speed is his greatest asset and you can credit Graham’s bloodlines for that. His father, Trevor, won a silver medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics with the Jamaican 4x400 relay team. His mother, Ann, ran track in college and now coaches in high school. But T.J. wanted to be different so he concentrated more on football and evolved as a player over his four years at North Carolina State.
“When he came to N.C State, he was a track star who was playing football” Wolfpack Coach Tom O’Brien told WGR during a recent interview. “I think he’s grown into a viable option. He will grow and get better each and every day because he works so hard at it. He is now a football player with great speed.”
Graham, who has been timed anywhere from 4.37 to 4.39 in the 40 yard dash, played all four years at N.C. State but wasn’t a big factor in the offense until his senior season when he led the team in receiving with 46 catches for 757 yards and 7 touchdowns.
“My football knowledge wasn’t that great coming into college” Graham told WGR. He credits O’Brien and Offensive Coordinator Dana Bible for his ascent into the NFL Draft. “You could tell my career got better and its just me understanding offense better and understanding football better” Graham said.
Graham has done his homework in preparation for what he hopes will be a long and successful pro career. He spent last season watching as many NFL games as possible to see which teams he would fit in with the best. That’s one reason why he was excited when the Bills called his name.
“I’m happy where I landed” said Graham. “I think I am falling into a good situation where I can help out a team and play right away. Watching Stevie(Johnson) and (Ryan) Fitzpatrick play, I feel like I could play with them. I fit right in that(offense), they needed a guy who can take the top off, somebody that can get down the field. I was pretty excited about the possibility of playing for them last fall.”(while watching the Bills on TV)
Shortly after being drafted by the Bills, Graham got in touch with the number one wide receiver and the starting qb. “I enjoy watching Stevie and Ryan play, I told them that” Graham said on WGR. “They tweeted me and Ryan sent me a text too. I think they’re kind of impressed with my Bills knowledge.”
Graham was a major special teams threat at N.C. State, returning punts and kicks in each of his four seasons. He left Raleigh as not only the school’s all time leader in kick returns but the best in ACC history too.
But the Bills have said they plan to let Graham focus on the receiving position as opposed to the return games. Chan Gailey said he sees Graham as an outside, field stretching receiver. Last season he had a catch of 47 yards or more in five of the Wolfpack’s 13 games. His career yards per catch average was 14.7.
One part of his game that will definitely need work is ball security. Graham had 6 fumbles last season and 12 in his career.
He didn’t completely ignore the sport of track and field, where he excelled in high school as a 2 time state champion in the 100 and 200 meters. Graham waited until his senior year to join the track team at N.C. State and ended up earning 2nd team All American honors as a sprinter.