Through seven games, Jimmy Graham is having one of the best seasons ever by a tight end. The Saints stud has 45 receptions, 674 yards, and five touchdowns. Over 16 games, that projects to 103 receptions (Tony Gonzalez has the record at 102), 1,541 yards (Kellen Winslow has the record at 1,290), and 11 touchdowns (Antonio Gates and Vernon Davis share the record with 13). You may think it’s improbable that Graham can have so much success despite only being in his second season as a pro (he also only played one season of college ball), but the bigger surprise is that he made it to the NFL despite his rough childhood.
Graham’s emotionally distressful life was chronicled in an excellent piece Sunday by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.
Growing up, Graham bounced around homes and had various caretakers. His mother often left him with other family members. He even lived with ex-step father for a year. Graham’s mother was getting paid $98 a month from Graham’s biological father for child support. Because he was taking care of Jimmy, the ex-step father wanted the support money. When Graham’s mother didn’t provide it, the ex-step father dropped young Jimmy off at social services.
Graham’s mother took him back for a few years, but when he was 11, she took Jimmy and his sister to a group home for orphans and delinquents. Jimmy couldn’t believe what happened, and recalls calling his mother to ask when she was going to pick him up. He says she ended the conversation by hanging up the phone.
Graham’s mother eventually took him back nine months later, but she hardly paid attention to her son, and her new boyfriend beat him. Jimmy began going to church, ostensibly for friends, support, and a free weekly meal. At one point he revealed to the prayer group that he was worried his mother would give him up again.
Feeling terribly for Graham, church volunteer Becky Vinson took him in and became his adoptive mother.
Graham eventually attended the University of Miami where he played basketball for four years and football for one. He and his mother later reconnected. While Jimmy says he forgives her, he knows he won’t forget what she did.
Now, the 24-year-old Saints tight end has an entire football family supporting him, and he is one of its key members. Not bad for a kid who was once abandoned over $98 per month.Google+