What we can all learn from Brandon Graham’s career originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
I watched the play 1000 times.
It was something like Brandon Graham’s 40th pass rush of the game, and the first 39 resulted in nothing but frustration — Tom Brady delivering the ball up and down the field en route to a playoff-record 505 yards passing.
The next one resulted in a big piece of Eagles history.
And what amazes me most about BG’s Super Bowl sack isn’t how he gave the Eagles momentum back with 2:16 left in Super Bowl LII, but how damn tenacious he was in that game and that one.
After 57 ½ minutes of Brady running empty-handed, he lined up inside on that fateful 2nd-and-2 from the Patriots’ 33-yard line and beat Patriots right guard Shaq Mason just enough to extend his left arm as Brady prepared to throw and kick the ball.
All day, Brady got rid of the ball a split second before BG or any of the Eagles’ forwards could get there. Graham just kept his head down and kept chasing. All those 35 or 40 failed rushes made him even hungrier and more determined to finally make a play.
And I’ve always looked at that game, that historic Eagles’ only championship game in 60 years, as a metaphor for BG’s career.
No matter how many times he failed, he wasn’t going to stop trying. No matter how many times he came up empty, he will keep pushing harder and harder.
Consider Graham’s career.
He wasn’t a starter until his sixth season. He didn’t have more than 6 ½ sacks until his ninth season. He didn’t make the Pro Bowl until his 11th season. He didn’t reach double figures in sacks until his 12th season.
For years he couldn’t leave the house without hearing about Earl Thomas. Without hearing how he was the next Antone Davis, Jon Harris or Jerome McDougle. Without hearing the words “first round spray.”
I’ll never forget talking to BG in his locker those days and how he vowed to keep working to become the player he knew he could be, to get rid of the first round draft tag, to make Eagles fans proud of him .
He kept grinding and it just didn’t happen for him. You can’t imagine what he went through in those first five years. And he really got discouraged and sometimes felt hopeless and experienced quite a lot of self-doubt.
I will never forget how BG admitted at a difficult moment after a few years of his career: “I’m a wreck. I didn’t do anything.”
The thing is, he never blamed anyone. He never made excuses. He took responsibility and never stopped working, never stopped trying to become the player he believed he could be.
And then it started to turn.
If you want to point to one moment where BG finally arrived, look to the 2017 opener against the Commanders, when he sacked Kirk Cousins twice as the Eagles started their Super Bowl streak with a 30-17 win at FedEx Field.
It was the start of a 9 ½-sack breakout season that heralded his arrival as a fearsome pass rusher seven years after he was drafted.
A few months later, striptease made him a legend, and in the years that followed he only added to his legendary status.
BG had an 8 ½ sack season in 2019 and 8.0 sacks in his Pro Bowl year in 2020, then at age 34 and coming off a sprained Achilles, a career-high 11 sacks this past year.
He is the only player in NFL history not to have 8.0 sacks once in his first seven seasons, but to have 8.0 sacks at least four times in the rest of his career.
He is the only player in history to record his first double-digit season this late in his career.
BG is an inspiration not only for the talented footballer, but also for what he overcame to get there. He took a path no one else had taken, overcame more adversity than anyone knows, and never stopped believing in himself even when no one else did.
If you had said in 2012 or 2013 that in a decade Philadelphia would be celebrating BG’s return for a record 14th season in an Eagles uniform, people would have said you were crazy, and you would have been.
All those clichés about staying positive and keep trying no matter what, he lived them.
We all have. We are all happy to have been along for the ride as Brandon Graham taught us lesson after lesson about what it truly means to never give up.