By Joseph Santoliquito
MINNEAPOLIS (CBS) — While some rigid faces were moving through the Eagles’ team hotel lobby on a brisk November Sunday morning, an infectious, distinguished laugh-box chortle came wafting through the corridors and down the halls like an invisible happy pill. It seems, regardless of the time of day, Brandon Graham is always jovial — even at 8 a.m. on a game day.
Graham, the Eagles’ eight-year veteran defensive end, has been a stalwart on the field these last five seasons. This year, the 6-foot-1, 265-pound 2010 first-round draft pick out of Michigan, has a team-high and career-best 9.5 sacks. He should have been selected for the Pro Bowl, and he had a strong case for being an All Pro.
His relentless play has no doubt been a factor in the Eagles being the second-best defense in the NFL.
What has equal impact is his ability to loosen everyone up and put a smile on teammate’s faces when situations don’t look so rosy. Before the Eagles take the field at U.S. Bank Stadium this Sunday in Super Bowl LII, laughs will be heard coming from their dressing room, because Graham will keep them relaxed.
“I love what I do and I have no problem being who I am, and that’s someone who’s been given a great opportunity, why not enjoy it and enjoy life,” said Graham, who was unfairly bounced around in his first four years, as the Eagles juggled defensive coordinators, moving from Sean McDermott, to Juan Castillo, to Todd Bowles and Castillo, and then to Billy Davis.
“I could be bitter looking over the first four years here, but what will that do me? I think it takes a strong person to deal with different situations and I think I showed I was able to deal with them. The biggest thing is I can’t let these guys [pointing around the dressing room to his teammates] down. I’m going to war with these guys and they have to know I’m going to give them my best.”
Graham’s best also includes his magnetic personality. The NFL can sometimes be a savage business with taut moments. Careers have sometimes hinged to one play.
Graham’s ability to keep things loose around him is something he takes very seriously.
“Think about anything you do in life, if you’re uptight, does it get done the way you want? Most times it doesn’t,” Graham stressed. “I love to laugh. I love being around happy people. When it’s time to get intense, I’m in there, I have no problem being out in front. But we play this game to have fun, and I think sometimes that gets lost because guys sometimes get too nervous and tight, and the next thing you know they’re messing up.
“We’ll be ready Sunday night. We’ll be loose and we’ll be confident. It’s been that way with this team all year. And it won’t be just me that makes sure that happens. We’re going out to win, and we’re going to enjoy ourselves doing it.”
Prompted most likely by Graham’s bellowing laugh.