Graham Ready to Lead

T.J. Graham has never been a front of the line type of guy. Then again, he's never had to be.

T.J. Graham has never been a front of the line type of guy. Then again, he's never had to be.

Since arriving on campus in 2008, he's taken a watch-and-learn approach, biding his time and soaking in everything he could from standouts Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams and Darrell Davis, who all finished their careers with the Wolfpack in 2010.

For Graham, the last three years have been the ultimate preparation for spring practice and the upcoming 2011 season, when being at the back of the line won't be an option for the senior from Wakefield High School in Raleigh. He's ready, and he knows he has to be.

"The first couple of days of practice were weird. We were waiting for someone to get something going and then we realized, it's on us," Graham said of he and fellow seniors Jay Smith and Steven Howard. I always felt like I was the young guy of the group and now it's completely flip flopped. I like it."

Graham also credits his time on the track team this spring with helping him prepare to lead on the football field. Graham finished second in the 60M (6.62) and 200M (20.79) at the Indoor ACC Championships in February.

"Going onto the track team, they've been looking for a leader, someone to come out there and guide them so that was a position I took," Graham said. "I was very vocal giving people advice and it's transferred out here to the football field during the first few days of practice."

As the football teams attempts to replace three senior standouts at wide receiver and three-year starter Russell Wilson at quarterback, Graham and fellow seniors Smith and Howard will certainly be asked to contribute more in 2011.

It's a safe bet that Graham's 2010 reception numbers (25) and yards (316) will go up dramatically in NC State's re-tooled offense, led by redshirt junior Mike Glennon.

His impact on special teams has always been there, but Graham's ability to stretch the field vertically and make plays in the open field as a wide receiver first will be a huge key to the success of NC State's offense in 2011.

"I've been waiting to step in to the leadership role," he said. I'm at the front of the line, I sit at the front of the classroom. When people ask questions, I try to answer them. I went from being the young guy to the one of the most experienced guys on the team."

Glennon said he's noticed Graham, Smith and Howard in practice and said they've provided invaluable instruction for the younger receivers who will also be asked to contribute come September. While Glennon's in a transition of his own, he said the wide receiving group is in good hands.

"They are definitely the most experienced out here," Glennon said. "You can definitely tell they are seniors compared to the other guys. The younger guys are showing a ton of potential but they need to learn what we're doing and what we're trying to do."

Graham admitted it's different being a guy other players look up to, but also said he's been hoping to fill this role and pass on what he learned in the last three years. If the success of Spencer, Williams and Davis in 2010 was any indication, 2011 could be a special season for all three senior receivers.

"There are lots of things coaches can't teach you," he said. "You have to learn different things from your peers and those guys paved the way and showed us exactly how it was supposed to be done. All we can do now is take that and make it 10 times better. That's what we're going to do."

Pack Pride Top Stories