Rookie defensive end Brandon Graham of the Philadelphia Eagles is a member of Touchdown vs. Shutdown, an After-School All-Stars program that brings NFL players to clinics and camps to speak to kids about academic achievement and physical fitness. The 13th pick of the 2010 NFL Draft out of the University of Michigan, Graham hosted a football clinic on July 10 at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. SI Kids caught up with Graham beforehand to ask him about the draft, the Eagles’ upcoming season, and what he has been up to this summer...
SIKIDS.com: How important is it for pro athletes to get involved with programs like this?
BG: I think it is very important, to let you know and remember that you were [once] that kid. Somebody needs that help just like you needed growing up. You just don’t know what it does to the kids just by seeing you do right and knowing that they are that much closer to being where you are.
SIKIDS.com: You graduated from the University of Michigan with a 3.9 grade-point average. Where does that accomplishment rank in comparison with your football awards?
BG: I take the same pride with school [as with] football. I know I need both of them so why not act like I need both of them and do good? I treated them both the same and they treated me well at the end.
SIKIDS.com: This season you are pledging $1,000 to the After School All-Stars organization for every sack you get. Why did you make this pledge?
BG: That will put the pressure on me. I know I want to have a great year, and what is a better thing to do than to have a great year and be able to help out the kids to at the same time? The biggest thing for me this year is to get sacks, because that’s what [the Eagles] want me to do. I am going to hold myself to the high standard of doing that. That’s why I came up with that.
SIKIDS.com: Coach Andy Reid made some aggressive moves to get an earlier pick in the NFL draft and grab you in the first round. Does his aggressiveness to pick you put pressure on you or does it give you more confidence?
BG: I think it does both. It puts pressure on me because that’s how much he really wanted me. For him to trade up that many spots he had to have wanted me for a long time. That was a good thing. The pressure’s on for me because he trusted me. He is putting all of this in my hands right now. He wants to see what I am going to do with it, if I am going to persevere through.
SIKIDS.com: How do you feel about people comparing your abilities to Eagles DE Trent Cole?
BG: It gives me great confidence because it’s Trent Cole. I saw him play last year and the years he has been playing he has been ballin’. For people to see that in me, I just can’t wait to see that in myself and start really living it and doing it. So many people can compare me to this and that. I just don’t want to buy in to that. I just want to go out there and have fun and do what I know I can do.
SIKIDS.com: How are you preparing for the transition from college to the pros?
BG: Just going there and learning the game a little more than what I already know. I’m going to go out there humble, ready to learn, and not think I know everything already because I had good years in college. It’s a totally different ball game.
SIKIDS.com: What is the mentality like going from a senior, a starter, and a captain to just a rookie?
BG: I think a lot of people mess up because it is hard to go from being the captain back to a rookie again. It’s hard. Once you buy in to being the rookie again, it helps you out a whole lot, and there is a lot that comes with it.
SIKIDS.com: If you could tell aspiring athletes one thing, what would it be?
BG: Be dedicated to the sport. If you treat the sport right, it will treat you right. And that comes with grades and everything. It comes with whatever you have to do. It comes with sacrifice.