Fun. Nerves. And everything in between. By the time Brandon Graham set up his party preparing for the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, he had experienced the full range of emotions and experiences. Coming off a fantastic senior season at the University of Michigan – Graham recorded 10.5 quarterback sacks and 26 tackles for loss – he launched full throttle into the process of preparing for The Moment.
It was everything he thought it would be.
"It was all worth it and I remember it very well," Graham said the other day at the NovaCare Complex as he prepares for his 13th season with the Eagles. "Make sure you enjoy it. Make sure you own up to everything in your past. Tell the truth. Prepare to be the best you can be. As soon as I was finished my season at Michigan, I met with three potential agents, made my decision, and then bam, that's when everything started."
"Everything" is, literally, everything.
The Senior Bowl was the first stop and while in Mobile, Alabama, Graham had a great week of practice and then earned Most Valuable Player honors in the game with five tackles, two quarterback sacks, and a forced fumble.
"That week," Graham said, "is probably why I'm here. MVP of the game, great week."
Then, it was off to prepare for the NFL Scouting Combine and then a host of interviews and meetings and questions and scrutiny.
Along the way, Graham had some challenges. He pulled a hamstring running the 40-yard dash at the Combine and couldn't participate in the remaining drills. While in Indianapolis, Graham met with 26 of the 32 teams and some of them couldn't figure out if he would be best suited to play as a standup edge rusher or a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end. Scouts wondered about his less-than-ideal arm length of 31 inches and whether, at 6-1 and 263 pounds, he was stout enough to play at the line of scrimmage.
Being genuine, Graham said, is the important factor above all else.
Graham knew after his Senior Bowl performance that he would be a first-round pick, or at worst, a second-round selection. He just wanted to get drafted and didn't have a preference for a team. And after all of that pre-draft hassle was over – including the Pro Day at Michigan, visits to Atlanta, Tennessee, and the Jets – Graham gathered his family at his home in Michigan instead of attending the draft live in New York City. He wanted his people around him for the biggest moment of his life, and when that moment came, when the Eagles traded up to No. 13 in the first round to call his name, it was time to celebrate.
"I thought maybe I would go at 10 to Miami and then that didn't happen and so it came time for the Eagles' pick," Graham said. "I saw that Philly traded up and, man, my phone blew up. Howie (Roseman) was on the phone and he was like, 'What's up BG? We're going to take you here and we're so happy to draft you at this spot and we can't wait to have you.' Joe Banner (former team president) got on the phone and then Coach (Andy) Reid jumped on the phone.
"The league had a camera there for me so that when the pick came on TV I jumped up and down and it was a feeling I can't even explain. Was this real? It was almost like it was fake. Great feeling, just like you thought it would be," he said.
After that, the next phase of work began for Graham, who flew to Philadelphia the next day to meet the team at the NovaCare Complex, did the media tour, was fitted for his helmet and jersey, and learned the life of a Philadelphia Eagle. Thirteen years later he's here, a leader of the Eagles, a Pro Bowl player, an NFL All-Pro, a Super Bowl Champion, and the elder statesman in the Philadelphia professional sports scene.
He knows what the players drafted on Thursday night and through the weekend will feel. It's something he will cherish forever.
"You just want an opportunity," Graham said. "You've been working for this moment your whole life. Enjoy the moment."