How Brandon Graham went from bust to Super Bowl hero

How Brandon Graham went from bust to Super Bowl hero

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."

Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

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Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

We split up your questions, so Part I of the mailbag ran yesterday (see story).

Just a reminder: training camp starts on July 25 and the first practice will be July 26. 

Let’s not waste anymore time. 

I’ve heard this a ton from people and it makes sense. Douglas seems to have what you’d look for in a safety and the Eagles value coverage skills in that position, something Douglas clearly has. So I see that as a possibility, but the Eagles have seemed hesitant to move him or even to really cross-train him. For me, the time to do it would have been during the OTAs and minicamp. Why not slide him back there for a few days to see how he handles it? That’s how I would have handled it. Without any extended time at safety in the spring, it’s hard for me to envision real cross-training in the summer. Eventually, though, you’re right; this makes sense. 

I don’t think so. Pumphrey looked a little better this spring, but he better have a great training camp. Right now, I have the Eagles keeping four running backs: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Matt Jones. If they keep five, Pump has a real chance; he’d just need to beat out Wendell Smallwood for that final spot. I think he has a decent chance, but I haven’t seen enough to give him a roster spot. He’s a player I’ll be watching extremely close at training camp. 

I’ll preface this by saying I’m no punter expert, but Cameron Johnston looks pretty solid to me. He was a really good punter at Ohio State and seemed to boot the ball pretty well this spring. The Eagles were comfortable enough with him to move on from Donnie Jones. 

To answer the second part, he will be the holder for Jake Elliott. The two have been working together this spring. While Johnston held last summer, Elliott was still in Cincinnati. They have to gel. 

In my latest 53-man roster projection, I actually don’t have Tre Sullivan in there. Instead, I went with Corey Graham, who is still on the street. I agree with you that in most situations going with the younger guy is the move, but not with this team. Not this year. Graham was such an important part of last year’s team. And because the Eagles have a legitimate shot to repeat, I’d try to bring him back. The Eagles have about $6 million in cap space. Get it done. 

Hi, John. Mango. Always mango. 

Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

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Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

We’ve officially reached the only sort of dead period on the NFL calendar. The Eagles are through their spring practices and won’t be back at the NovaCare Complex until July 25 for the start of training camp. 

That sounds far away, but it’ll be here before you know it. 

You guys were great and gave me a ton of questions, so I’ll answer half today and half Sunday. Let’s go: 

I’m tempted to say defensive tackle just for health concerns surrounding Tim Jernigan, but I have to answer linebacker. Jordan Hicks appears to be healthy after tearing his Achilles last year, but as good as he is when healthy, it’s just tough to count on him. Two years ago, he was able to play a full season and things were looking good, but then he suffered another serious injury. If Hicks and Bradham stay healthy, linebackers aren’t a concern. The Eagles will have either Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry or Corey Nelson take the weakside spot on base downs and they’ll be OK. 

But without Mychal Kendricks, it’s fair to be concerned about their depth at the position, especially after veteran pickup Paul Worrilow was already lost for the year. Kendricks came up huge last year as a fill-in; not sure the Eagles have that kind of depth this year. 

Not sure yet. What I can tell you about De’Vante Bausby is that he was impressive this spring and the coaching staff seems to love him. I remain very, very skeptical that he’s good enough to keep Sidney Jones off the field. With that said, I do think he’s talented enough to make the 53-man roster. We’ll get a better sense at camp when the pads go on, but I have him penciled in to make the team. 

Yes on both. The Nate Sudfeld hype is real. In our first extended looks at the young quarterback, he’s been incredibly impressive. It’s starting to make sense why the Eagles snatched him from Washington and then blocked the Colts from signing him last season. They kept him on the 53 in the second half of last year, so they’re completely prepared to keep three QBs on this year’s roster if Foles is still on the team. 

This is going to be the summer of Nate Sudfeld. We’re going to see him play a ton in those preseason games and that will let us know if he’s ready to be QB2 behind Carson Wentz. But the fact that the Eagles didn’t bring in a more experienced veteran after Wentz went down last year pretty much tells you all you need to know about what the Eagles think of him. 

We tried that. Didn’t work out well. We’re up for suggestions. 

You have no idea how out of water this fish is. This is like taking a fish from the ocean and dropping it in Kansas. 

How about Portugal? I’ll go with them because of Ronaldo.