Graham providing Motor City miracle

Graham: Keeping tabs on Crockett

It was around 6:45 p.m. last Friday, some 2 1/2 hours after Crockett Tech had cruised to a 49-0 victory. Suddenly, a text message flashes on coach Rod Oden’s cell phone: “What we do today?”

The message is from Eagles rookie Brandon Graham, who likes to keep tabs on
his high school and texts the team’s linebackers. He was a little disappointed to learn that Crockett (4-0) has given up 54 points this

“It’s one thing coming from me, but when it comes from that guy, it’s kind of an eye-opener because they know he’s been here — in these same seats, on
these same sidelines and he’s put that work in,” Oden said.

Terrance Shorter is Crockett’s starting middle linebacker, the same position Graham played when Crockett won the state championship in 2004. Shorter didn’t hesitate when asked if Graham was his favorite player.

“Definitely,” Shorter said. “Every time we bring up BG, it’s like, ‘How can I get to that level,’ so I’m out here trying to be just like him, or even better.”

New jersey: A team dressed to impress

Brandon Graham is big on surprises. Sometimes, he’ll pop in unannounced to work out in Crockett Tech’s weight room, or run laps on the beat-up practice field or sit in on film study with Coach Oden.

But when a Nike representative called Oden and asked for jersey sizes, even the talkative coach was speechless.

“I said, ‘I’ll give you the sizes, but we don’t have any money,’” Oden told the rep.

The rep informed Oden that Graham had already paid Nike, and he was committed to making a yearly donation.

“I wanted to make sure they had a lot of different things that I didn’t,” Graham said. “For me, to be in the position I’m in, I want to make sure I give back to those guys that are working hard. Why not start with uniforms?

Make ‘em feel good while they are out there.”

Graham spent about $7,000 on the jerseys, which resemble the ones he wore during his senior year at Crockett. Nike delivered the purple and teal jerseys 4-5 days before the season opener. Next year, he wants to buy cleats and then maybe donate to the weight room or audio/visual department.

“They’re going to be getting a lot of stuff … I told them you all got me in your corner,” Graham said.

In 2012, Crockett will move to a new facility — about four miles away, in Graham’s boyhood neighborhood — and Oden wouldn’t be surprised if the new football field is named after him.

“Brandon is big about things being named after him,” Oden said. “He always wanted to be the first Brandon Graham — he would say, ‘I want to set that benchmark, so kids leave here wanting to be me,’ and that’s exactly what has happened.”

Graham took it even a step further.

“I would love to leave my name at the high school,” he said, “or start a high school of my own, if I ever got enough money to be able to run a high school. It’s something in Detroit that I see that they need.”

Homecoming: Graham wows at Ford Field Last Sunday was a homecoming for Graham, as the Eagles battled the Lions in Detroit. Early in the first quarter, Graham burst through enemy lines and dropped Lions quarterback Shaun Hill for his first NFL sack. Of course, the Eagles won the game, 35-32.

“That was extra special for me,” said Graham.

Oden calls himself Graham’s biggest critic, so he was quick to remind his
former star linebacker that he got reach-blocked at least three times.

“Always prepare as if somebody is watching,” Oden said. “I told him, ‘All
the alumni, everyone at the school, they are all watching you.’”

Like the 100-plus cheering section at Ford Field, which included 15 members
of Crockett’s football team. After the game, Graham gave the players a pep
talk and — as he stuck around to sign every autograph and pose for every
picture — delayed the Eagles’ team bus.

“It feels good, I got a whole group looking up to me,” Graham said.

When he was at Crockett, Graham would give up weekends to talk to eighth-graders about the benefits of high school.

“He understands he didn’t get here by himself,” Oden said. “It’s something
you can’t teach a lot of these guys that are on his level.”

THIS WEEK: The Eagles (1-1) play at Jacksonville, Sunday, at 4 p.m.;Crockett Tech (4-0) plays at Mumford, Friday, at 4 p.m.

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