The New Orleans Saints announced today that second-year tight end Jimmy Graham has been voted by his teammates as the 2011 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of neglected children and ending the cycle of abuse. The purpose is to raise Awareness and Prevention of child abuse. That objective is coupled with the Foundation's commitment to celebrating players of inspiration in the NFL.
Since its inception the Foundation through its charter with the Courage House National Support Network for Kids, and an affiliation with the National Football League and Professional Football Athletics Trainers Society has helped to provide hope to countless children and raised millions of dollars.
Graham, a 6-6, 260 pound native of Goldsboro, N.C., graduated from the University of Miami with degrees in both marketing and management in 2009. He was selected by the Saints in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft after playing just one year of college football. Prior to that, Graham was a four-year letterman for the Hurricanes in basketball. Graham spent portions of his childhood living in a group home before being taken in by a legal guardian, Rebecca Vinson. Despite putting herself through nursing school and overcoming financial struggles of her own, Vinson helped mentor and stress the importance of education to Graham while providing him with a caring home.
"The Ed Block Courage Award is one of the most prestigious awards an NFL player receives because it is voted on by his peers," said Saints' Head Athletic Trainer Scottie B. Patton. "The award is a testament to overcoming adversity, whether it is through setbacks on the field or through challenges they have overcome in their lives. Jimmy has touched the lives of so many people he has come into contact with in his short time here and we all recognize and pay tribute to the amazing contributions he has made to our organization."
Graham currently leads the Saints' in receptions (67), receiving yards (967) and touchdowns (eight). Graham is the second-leading receiver in the NFL, trailing only New England Patriots WR Wes Welker (82) in receptions.
"He is an amazing person," said Saints' QB and co-captain Drew Brees. "He is humble, hard-working and I think we all recognize some of the challenges he faced growing up. He doesn't take things for granted and he inspires all of us."
"When I see Jimmy, I see perseverance," said LB Jonathan Vilma, the Saints' recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award in 2008 and a co-captain. "He is very dedicated, shows up every day and wants to get better. The adversity he has overcome in his life is something that should serve as inspiration to anyone who is facing tough times. He draws on it and it fuels him. He had every excuse to go the other way in his life. Instead he chose education, he chose to be a great person and to do the best at what's he's doing. And, he genuinely wants to help people. He has a great heart and a smile on his face. He knows he can make a positive difference in peoples' lives and he quietly goes about doing that."
"One of the things we pride ourselves on is having the right type of people in our locker room," said co-captain DE Will Smith. "Here's a guy you look up to, even though he's just in his second year. He's passionate about playing and learning this game and what he's doing is remarkable. Yet, you never hear him talking about himself. He puts the team ahead of everything else and he fits right in. He's a guy that likes to joke around at the right times, but he's all business when you boil it all down."
"I am rarely at a loss for words," Graham said. "But this is very special. I think anytime the people that you work with every day think highly enough of you to vote for a prestigious award such as the Ed Block Courage Award that it's very special. There are a lot of players in this locker room, as well as coaches, trainers and the people that are here to support our team on a daily basis that have overcome or are battling with tough breaks in their lives. Do I more deserve this more than they do? I don't know, but I do know that there have been some really amazing people in my life that took an interest in me at a young age and helped get my life headed in the right direction. I feel an obligation to them to be the best I can be and maximize the God-given abilities I have been blessed with."
Graham will be honored, along with recipients of the other 31 NFL teams, at the Ed Block Courage Awards in Baltimore, Maryland 2012.