There was a time not all that long ago when Brandon Graham's mother, Tasha, wouldn't wear her son's jersey to Lincoln Financial Field.
She wanted to support her son, but it just probably wasn't a good idea.
“They were calling him a bust and they were saying they should have gotten JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) or Earl Thomas,” Tasha Graham said in a November 2015 interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. “It was a lot he had to stomach and stay strong on. That’s just the ups and downs of the NFL. When you’re good, you can’t get them off your coattails and when you’re bad, oh, they let you know.”
Eagles fans definitely let him know.
For years, Graham, who was selected 13th in the 2010 draft out of Michigan, was considered a major bust. To make matters much worse, the two guys taken after him (Thomas and Pierre-Paul) became All-Pros.
All the hate bothered Graham in the beginning, but he eventually learned to block it out — and block the haters quite literally on social media. All the while, he never gave up on himself, he kept working harder than just about anyone else in the building. And eventually he turned himself into a role player, then a starter and then a star.
On Thursday, Graham rode down Broad Street as a fan favorite and a Super Bowl hero.
"Ah man, it means so much because of the journey," Graham said on SportsCenter last week. "Like you said, what I've been through here in Philadelphia. Got hurt in the beginning. Went from a bust to a Super Bowl champion."
It was so fitting that it was Graham who made the biggest play of Super Bowl LII. After not getting much pressure on Tom Brady all game, Graham came through the middle with just over two minutes remaining to knock the ball away for a strip sack. It was the only time Brady was sacked all game.
Just a few days earlier, defensive line coach Chris Wilson said the key in the game for his defensive linemen would be patience. Even if they weren't getting to Brady — which was very possible — they couldn't give up. They had to remain patient.
Who knows more about patience than Graham?
Earlier in his career, he needed major microfracture surgery that stunted his development. From there, he went through the Jim Washburn experience, and plenty of new coordinators and position coaches. When Chip Kelly came in 2013, Graham became an outside linebacker in a 3-4 and all of a sudden had to drop into coverage.
He didn't become a starter until the 2015 season. He didn't become a star until last year when Jim Schwartz came to town and brought back the 4-3 alignment that allowed Graham to play to his strengths. Originally, when Schwartz came, Graham was supposed to be a bench player, but he was so good in training camp, he took over as a starter and hasn't given up his spot since.
Graham has started all but one game in the last two seasons and has become the team's best pass-rusher.
Not to mention, a Super Bowl hero.
“It’s so much sweeter because of all the people that doubted me and doubted a lot of guys," Graham said last week. "Vinny (Curry) didn’t start off hot like he wanted to but he ended up getting better, we both did, and we both went through that fire of Washburn. It’s just one of those things where we had to keep fighting, and we fed off each other. All the hard work that we went through finally paid off."