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Graham Motivated for 2012 Season; Looks to Start Foundation for Foster Children

Posted Feb 16, 2012

Saints Pro Bowl TE Using New Earned Platform to Help Others



TE Jimmy Graham had two short-lived momentous moments towards the end of the 2011 season.

He broke the NFL record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end (1,310) in the regular season finale against the Panthers

Graham was acknowledged on the PA by announcer Jerry Romig of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as Saints fans roared in ovation.

However, New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski caught a 23-yard pass just minutes later against the Bills to up his season total to 1,327 and set the new record.

"Records are meant to be broken and mine got broken pretty quickly," Graham joked after the game.

Graham’s other transitory triumph happened in the Divisional Playoff game against the 49ers.

With 1:48 left in the game and the Saints trailing 29-24, QB Drew Brees connected with Graham over the middle, who spun, stiff-armed and ran down the field for a 66-yard go-ahead score. The Saints connected on a two-point conversion to give them a 32-29 lead with 1:37 left on the contest.

49ers TE Vernon Davis stole Graham’s thunder on the next drive when he caught a 14-yard touchdown pass to give the 49ers the win.

“Every player waits for their marque moment,” said Graham. “A lot of players have had their moment. Tracy Porter has his Super Bowl interception. Drew’s new moment of breaking the (NFL single-season passing yardage) record. Even in this year’s Super Bowl when Eli (Manning) had the pass to (Mario) Manningham on that final drive. For me, I have been waiting for that moment. I thought that could be the moment but it wasn’t meant to be.”

The dramatic finish in San Francisco didn’t diminish Graham’s remarkable season.



In his first year as a full-time starter, Graham was voted as a Pro Bowl starter. Along with finishing second in league history for most receiving yards by a tight end in a season, he set a franchise record for receptions with 99 and tied another single-season team mark with 11 touchdown receptions.

“It was a good year but we didn’t reach the ultimate goal,” said Graham. “I am going to work as hard as I have ever worked this offseason to get to the Super Bowl next year.”

Graham’s accolades quickly increased this 2010 third-round draft pick’s profile. It’s impossible for his 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame to go anywhere in New Orleans without being recognized by the public. Whether it’s an autograph, a photo or just wanting to say hello, Saints fans can’t get enough of the second-year tight end.

Graham hasn’t shied away from the new-found fame. Rather he embraces it.

“It’s definitely different for me with the attention but I have worked very hard for it,” said Graham. “There were a lot of people who doubted me when I entered the draft. I remember some analysts saying that I was the draft’s ‘biggest risk.’ They were advising coaching staffs to not ‘bite at the bait.’ That’s always in the back of my mind and constantly drives me.”

With his new platform, Graham is looking to help others who have faced similar obstacles he did growing up.

Graham’s rough upbringing was well-documented through the media. He dedicates his play on the field to his sister Karena Vinson. Karena and her mother Becky raised Graham after his mother left him at a foster care home.

Graham took part in USA Network’s “NFL Characters Unite” special which showcased NFL stars that have experienced enormous success on the field and have also overcome extreme hate and bigotry in their lives.

In the special, Graham met 14-year old New Orleans native Ashton Randall. Randall is transitioning into a foster care home after his father was murdered and his mother lost custody due to a drug addiction.

On the special, Graham brought Randall to the New Orleans Boy Town headquarters and joined him on a tour of the facility. They set up a new basketball goal and played hoops with other foster children.



Graham’s relationship with Randall didn’t end with the special. The two keep in contact and Graham has brought him to the movie theater and provided him tickets to Saints games. Randall has Graham’s and his marketing manager’s cell phone number. If Randall needs the Saints tight end for anything, Graham wants to make sure he has a way to find him.

“Ashton is from the heart of New Orleans,” said Graham. “He was telling me his story and I shared my story with him. I saw a lot of me in what he has dealt with. I gave him advice on what he should do and discussed some ‘what-if’ scenarios of things that I dealt with.”

Graham hopes to help many kids like Randall in the future. He plans on starting his own foundation to aid foster children or partner with a foundation that already does.

“I don’t want to just put my name on something or just write a check,” said Graham. “I want to make it count and see the results. I want to know it changes peoples’ lives.”

Follow Jimmy: Twitter, Facebook, Website