A couple of years ago we wouldn't even be having this conversation. You know: the one about Graham Stoddard being looked at from schools around the country as a linebacker prospect in Division 1-A. Not two years ago, because that time was very different than it is now.
"I was playing quarterback and I really didn't think that I had much of a future beyond high school when it came to football," Graham said. "I figured I'd play my two years, hopefully go to college and that would be it. I never really thought about playing Division 1-A football."
Certainly not to the level of the Huskers, but when current Husker and former Lincoln Southwest athlete Austin Cassidy took over the reigns at QB, Stoddard started to realize a little of his potential and it started with the Scout.com/U.S. Army All-American Junior Combine down in San Antonio, Texas.
"It was kind of funny, because before that combine, nobody really knew anything about me and I definitely wasn't getting any letters," Stoddard said. "But after that, the letters just started coming in."
The letters included Nebraska , of course, but Graham also added interest from schools like Colorado State , Vanderbilt and Iowa . It was an eye-opener, but a good one for the senior-to-be. "I know that I have a lot of strengths at my position," Stoddard said of playing outside linebacker for the Silverhawks. "I have a lot of speed most linebackers my size don't have, and the one great thing is, I am in coverage a lot, and most linebackers don't really have to do that."
At 6-1 and just shy of 210 pounds, Graham finds himself closer to being an ideal candidate, at least, to those coveted for certain positions in Division 1-A. And from conversations with Nebraska , he's even more encouraged by just how he'll fit in, no matter where he goes. "Coach Cosgrove told me that they would definitely be bringing in more linebackers than normal this year, and that I was one of the guys they were looking at," Graham said of Defensive Coordinator and Linebacker Coach Kevin Cosgrove. "I always felt that I would be a defensive guy, but them saying that really kind of lets you know what position you should be playing."
They aren't the only ones recruiting the Southwest standout for the position, all the schools listed above doing likewise. But when Stoddard hears " Nebraska ", it's obvious something different runs through the mind. "There's just something about Nebraska you can't beat," Graham said emphatically. "I've thrown the bones during a game and being a "blackshirt" has always been a dream of mine. To go there and play – that's just something special you think about, and two years ago it wouldn't have even crossed my mind."
Over the years there have been plenty of players who have received scholarships from other schools only to take the option of walking on at the University of Nebraska . If only for a chance to throw on the Scarlet and Cream – that was enough for them to spurn others and head for Lincoln . And Graham's 69 tackles, five sacks and two interceptions in 2006 from his defensive end position, would lead one to believe that he has at the very least, the bare athleticism to be considered a viable prospect.
For Stoddard, it's certainly an idealistic dream, but the decision on whether to take a full ride or walk on at Nebraska , probably wouldn't be as clear cut. "If I knew I had a chance to earn a scholarship at Nebraska , walking on might not seem like a bad thing, but a full ride to a school is a full ride," he said. "I don't know right now. I know where my heart is, but a full scholarship means that school really wants you and it also means you don't have to pay for a thing."
The dilemma will continue, probably well into and maybe even beyond his senior season at LSW, as they try to make another run at the state title. Up until practice starts, though, Graham plans on testing the waters to see what's out there and through a variety of camps and combines, continue to show what he can do. "I'm heading to a camp in Missouri , and I have the Adidas thing here ( Lincoln ) on the 28th of this month and we are talking about going to the "B2G" combine too," he said. If there is time, Stoddard and some teammates could also be making the Scout.com combine down in Kansas City on May the 14th.
It's all the build up to hopefully a big senior season, but for Graham, it's the continuing realization of something that just two years ago, he thought impossible. "Hey, I get hand written letters from Vanderbilt. I got a text message from Colorado State to give them a call," he said. "It's been a real surprise, but that's only made me want to get bigger, faster, stronger and become the best player I can be, so I can help my team and play at the next level.
"I don't know what more you could ask."
Junior Highlights of Graham Stoddard
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- Clip 2