After finishing up a few OTAs with the Buffalo Bills earlier this week, former Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg turned his attention back home.
Gragg (6-3, 244), the former Warren standout about to enter his fourth season with the Bills, will host a one-day football camp in Dumas this Saturday in an effort to give back to the state that helped him get to where he is today.
Check in will be from 8-9 a.m. with the camp running until 1 p.m. and costing $20.
“This camp is something that I have been putting together since I got to the league because I always wanted to give back to the community and especially to the kids,” noted Gragg, the Bills’ seventh-round pick in the 2013 draft.
“I want to give them somebody to look up to that was in the exact same position - a small-time Arkansas kid that did something in this game of football and took it all the way to the next level.
“It’s something that I have always wanted to do, something that me and my mom (Tenita Shannon Gragg) are putting together along with a few other people.”
The NFL does help out its players if they want to have camps, but Gragg - who has 29 catches for 251 yards and two touchdowns in his young NFL career - wanted to do this one on his own.
“I didn’t use the NFL this time even though they do camps like this and help bring people in, but I wanted it to be a real hands-on feel and wanted to have people that I know working it,” Gragg said. “I am hoping it will be a success.
“There will be stretching, a lot of agility drills, combine set ups and then some seven-on-seven games.”
Gragg, who had a chance to see several Arkansas practices this spring, has played in 32 games the last three seasons with the Bills while starting 10, including the last four last season.
Rex Ryan took over the Bills before last season and led them to a 8-8 record and just missed out on a playoff berth.
“I had a whole new offensive staff and it was a hard learning curve at first, especially with our new offensive coordinator (Greg Roman), who is very meticulous,” Gragg said. “There was a lot of new lingo and a lot of concepts.
“We finished the year pretty good. We led the league in rushing. I ended up having probably my best year both blocking and catching the ball (12 catches, 150 yards).
“I played with another Arkansan in (former Little Rock Central and Tulsa star) Charles Clay, who was our starting tight end and once he was injured I filled in and started the last five games and I don’t think there was any drop off.”
Ryan has brought his brother Robb over as defensive coordinator to try and shore up that side of the ball.
“Our team is coming along pretty good this year,” Gragg said. “We drafted a lot of guys on defense and that side should be much better, especially with Coach Ryan bringing along his brother to run the defense and they are back together.”
“Today was our fifth OTA and they have been dialing up some blitzes and we are going to have that Ryan type of defense so I think we are going to have a good year.”
Gragg has been joined at OTAs by former Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams, who was taken in the fifth round of this year’s draft by Buffalo.
“Jonathan has been doing good,” Gragg said. “I have been speaking with him every day and we have been working together. He has been taking on a special teams role and I have told him that is something that he definitely needs to focus on since that is not really something he has to do at Arkansas.
“He has also had some good runs during the OTAs.”
Being around Fayetteville this spring, Gragg got a chance to be around his younger brother Will, who will be a redshirt freshman tight end this fall.
“Will is coming along pretty good,” Gragg said. “I think he is maturing and I was able to talk to him and watch film together. He is remaining humble and I hear him saying the lingo that comes with being a college guy.”
The younger Gragg has redefined his body from last year after working with strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert.
He is one of four redshirt freshmen tight ends along with Austin Cantrell, Cheyenne O’Grady and Jamario Bell fighting for time behind.
“Hopefully he will have a chance to play this year and I can tell he is getting a lot leaner and a lot stronger working out with Coach Herb in the weight room,” Gragg said.
“It is going to be exciting to see. This is a big camp for him because Coach B has made it clear they are going to need some of those freshmen tight ends to go out there and play behind Sprinkle.”
The younger Gragg had over 50 offers before signing with Arkansas, but found himself redshirting his freshman season.
“That is always hard for any high school kid that goes to a D-I college after being “The Guy” on their team,” Gragg said. “They come from being the stud football player on their team to going to the bottom of the totem pole.”
He thinks the Razorbacks have a lot of good pieces.
“In the practices that I got to see, you could see a lot of potential and I think they are going to have a very good year even though there is some inexperience in spots,” Gragg said. “That can be overcome with talent.”
Gragg makes it clear that making the NFL and staying in the NFL is hard work.
“It is a job and you have to treat it as a job,” Gragg said. “You have to go in every day focused. You can have bad plays, but you better not have bad days. You have to shake a lot of things off if stuff doesn’t go your way. You have to use that adversity to benefit yourself.
“The biggest transition is that in college there is a drop off from the first team to the second, but in the NFL there is really no different from the 1s and the 2s.”