Ball's in Jimmy Graham's Court In Draft

Miami TE Jimmy Graham's story resembles that of Antonio Gates, and even a bit Michael Oher. After a successful college basketball career, he turned to football his senior year. He said he was looking for a way to play football ever since he was adopted at 15 and sent to a Christian school with only a basketball team. Today, he very well could be exactly what the Cardinals are looking for.

University of Miami basketball star Jimmy Graham isn't a one-trick pony. Despite leading his basketball team to back-to-back postseason appearances, he traded in his sneakers for cleats. He decided to play football his senior season and is now projected as a possible third or fourth-round pick in this year's draft. Sound familiar?

Graham think so too, which is why he idolizes tight ends Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez.

"Those guys are my idols," Graham said. "I am really looking forward to meeting those guys and kind of picking their brains and learn a lot from them through their experiences. Antonio Gates didn't really get the opportunity to go back to college like I did. But I would love to kind of just sit down and talk with him. But those guys are definitely my idols and hopefully I'll be stepping in their footsteps soon."

While Graham can't help but ride the coattails of former basketball stars turned tight ends, he has also learned how to make his own way through the process.

"I've truly been blessed this past year. I've worked my tail off, so it's just good to see hard work kind of pay off and people giving me opportunities to show my talents."

He did just that. Graham impressed scouts and coaches at the Senior Bowl. He also impressed the media with his excitement over the whole media storm. But Graham says the most valued part of his experience down in Mobile, Ala. was what he learned from the coaching staff.

"Wow, I've actually learned a lot," Graham said. "Every time I step out there, I feel like I learn something new. [Tony} Sparano... kind of pulled me to the side [when] we were doing 1v1's, and I caught a pass and I burned somebody- I don't know who it was- but he said, 'get into it and stick em', kind of make them think you are going one way' because I try to outrun people because I think I am faster than everybody, but he said at the next level you aren't going to be able to do that, you have to be more technically sound. So that was pretty big."

Other coaches have found a way to utilize Graham's basketball knowledge to develop him in the trenches.

"It's kind of funny how every coach from college, and even NFL coaches, kind of use basketball words to tell me what to do. It's get to 10 and just post them up, or get to the back of the end zone and just kind of grab the rebound. You can definitely tell basketball comes out a little bit. I mean as far as footwork and leaping ability and hands. I think the hands part is the biggest [because] basketball players usually have soft hands."

It's not only Graham's basketball background that's helping him on the field, it's also the lifelong brotherhood of The U family that is behind him every step of the way.

"I had the opportunity to sit down with Ed Reed a lot. He taught me a lot of coverage and stuff. Greg Olsen called and was wishing me luck. It seems like The U family has definitely surrounded me and helped me through this process."

With only a couple months before the NFL Draft, Graham appears to be in very good hands.

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