Panhandle Slim

Panhandle,TX athlete Eric Graham played Offensive Tackle last year at 280 pounds but could play a number of positions in college after drastically cutting his weight. Owl Digest spoke to Graham recently – here's the "skinny" on the much slimmer Graham…

When college recruiters arrived at Panhandle High School this spring they were looking for a 6-6 280 pound Offensive Tackle named Eric Graham. What they found was a much leaner football player who could potentially play Tight End, Defensive End, or Offensive Tackle in college. Graham is back "up" to 245 pounds now after losing almost 60 pounds in all. The transformation in his physique has recruiters wanting to see more. Coaches from Rice, Kansas, Arizona, Northwestern, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and even Montana have made the trip to the High Plains to check Graham out.

A Loss Much Greater Than Weight

Eric's father, Russell Graham played football for Oklahoma State and spent time in training camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was Eric's Offensive Line Coach and also the Track Coach at Panhandle High School. On a Monday last October the elder Graham started experiencing tightness in his chest. Tests were run and on Tuesday Graham had been scheduled to have a stent inserted to relieve a coronary blockage. Tragedy struck - he passed away after experiencing complications with the procedure – Russell Graham was gone at age 46. As expected the loss struck Eric hard. He started dropping weight rapidly; before the season ended his weight had gotten as low as 215 pounds. "I wasn't eating right at all and my weight got really low. My dad was such a big part of my life and coached me in football, power-lifting, and track. When he died I went through a real tough period."

Big…but Also Fast

Eric is dealing with the tragedy and got back on track pretty quickly. Literally. "I've always been able to run pretty well. Even more so now that I've dropped a bunch of weight." Evidence of Graham's speed is the fact that he ran the 200 meters in track this year for Panhandle – and at 6-6 245 pounds ran a sub 24 second time! "I got some strange looks at track meets, being such a big guy. A couple of times I came straight from the Shot Put ring over to the blocks for my 200M sprints." I asked what his best 40-yard dash time was and he said, "I haven't timed lately but it was 4.75 the last time I did. I'm probably faster now."

Where Will He Play?

I asked Eric if he had a preference in terms of what position he plays at the next level. "Not really – I just want to play football. I'd like the chance to try Tight End or Defensive End, but I might grow into a Tackle also." His potential at positions other than Offensive Tackle has college coaches intrigued. He will have the opportunity to line up at Tight End and Defensive End at the Rice Camp; he plans to attend the second Mini Camp in Houston to be held July 17th. Graham told me he's gotten camp invitations from all over the Big 12, Pac 10 and even the Big 10 (Northwestern). But for now he has his sights set on the Rice Camp. Once there he hopes to earn an Owl offer.

"I like Rice and Coach LaFavers a lot. They're definitely my leader."

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