By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Brandon Graham is back again, doing the things he’s always done, relentlessly attacking, always moving up field and remaining persistent.
The 6-foot-2, 270-pound third-year Eagles’ defensive end beams a glowing smile, because it’s all coming back to him after being on the shelf for a while. High expectations were temporarily dashed as the Eagles’ 2010 first-round pick when Graham tore an anterior cruciate ligament against Dallas in week 14 of his rookie year. There was almost a year’s wait until he was able to play again last season.
Then there was the constant rotation and numbers game he got caught behind malcontent Jason Babin. Now with Babin gone, along with defensive line coach Jim Washburn and his gimmicky Wide-9 scheme, Graham is starting and showing what he knew all along.
That he can play and start in the NFL.
“I’m letting them know that I want to be the future here, and for as many years as I can,” Graham said. “I never sat and watched anything in my life, but there are certain things that you go through in life that challenge you. I grew up always humble, and I learned sometimes you have to fight from the ground up, and I was back down at square one. I had to change up what I was doing. It was very frustrating, but I didn’t let it get me down.”
It’s actually hard to get Graham down about anything. He carries an effervescent personality that’s added some sunshine to what’s been a dour locker room and season for the Eagles.
All Graham wanted was a chance. He wasn’t too pleased at times this season how he was used by Washburn, so the times he did get to play, he was determined to make the most of those opportunities.
“It’s all you can do,” Graham said. “I had teammates, Trent Cole, those guys on the line, support me. I stayed with the plan and get back. It was more so me making sure I did all of the techniques right and making sure I was all the way back from my knee injury. I’m not going to say it wasn’t the coach not liking me. But the coach who’s here now, or whoever is going to come in, I want them to put the best man out there. I’m not the kind of guy who sits around and pouts about stuff. That’s just not me.”
Graham found out he’s more of a fighter than he originally thought. He’s maintained a good attitude during what’s been a trying process.
This season, he’s played in all 13 games, garnering 23 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble. In the Eagles’ 38-33 loss at Dallas on December 2, Graham, the player the Eagles’ envisioned him to be, arrived. He had a career-high six tackles, including 1.5 sacks, against the Cowboys.
The inexorable way he keeps coming bore through on one sequence, when he was blocked, got back up, knocked down again, and got back up and hit the field for a third time—and still kept pursuing.
“That’s me, that’s my game, that’s the way I play,” Graham said. “I think I’m just proving who I am. Shoot, I had the injury, and all the rehab to get back, it’s why every play means so much to me. But they haven’t seen the real Brandon Graham yet. I’m building, I’m getting there. That’s still coming. It’s still coming, and it’s far more mental than anything. There are a lot of dreams I have in my head that I still want to achieve.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.