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Jan 16, 2013 12:18am
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ORCHARD PARK, N. Womens Vince Wilfork Jersey .Y. —The son of
two elite track stars, T.J. Grahams blazing speed comes naturally. As for the
confidence the Buffalo Bills rookie receiver possesses, he developed that the
hard way—by overcoming adversity. However far his legs will take him remains
unknown after the third-round draft pick out of North Carolina State got his
first taste of the NFL by attending Buffalos three-day rookie minicamp that
closed Sunday. Whats unmistakable is the healthy sense of self-belief Graham
carries when providing a simple answer to what the draft experts might have
missed in dismissing his potential. “Me,” he said, with a smile, noting how some
questioned whether hed even be drafted at all. “They dont know me.” Bold as the
response might be, Graham wont apologize for expressing confidence. “Ive been
through a lot,” he said. “My familys ups and downs have helped me get to this
point, built me.” Graham is referring to how the comfortable life he was
accustomed to living as the son of an elite track coach was turned upside-down
some seven years ago. Thats when his father Trevor Grahams career came to a
stunning halt as a result of his connection to the BALCO performance-enhancing
drug scandal. The elder Graham, whose stable of athletes included Marian Jones,
has been banned for life from coaching competitive track. In 2008, he was
sentenced to a year of home confinement for lying to federal investigators. It
wasnt an easy time for T.J. —Trevor Junior. He was barely a teenager when the
free Nike gear he used to get stopped showing up. Classmates he regarded as
friends began distancing themselves. And every time Graham turned on his
favourite sports network meant the possibility of seeing the family name on the
ticker. The scandal didnt change the love and respect Graham had toward his
father, except to draw the two—and the entire family—closer. “Hes my role
model,” Graham said of his father, who was a member of Jamaicas
silver-medal-winning 4-by-400m relay team at the 1988 Summer Games. What did
change was Grahams outlook toward his own future. “Before, being a kid, you kind
of just think that youre going to live forever as a kid,” said Graham, whose
mother also ran track professionally. “That was a point where I realized that
one day Im going to have to have a job and figure out what I want to do. “The
NFL was my dream.” And now hes on the cusp of living it in Buffalo. Hes a member
of a team with an immediate need for a player with Grahams speed—the Bills
timed him at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash—to provide its offence a deep
threat opposite starter Stevie Johnson. Though Graham wasnt ranked high on many
draft charts, the Bills were so interested that they traded a seventh-round pick
to move up two spots to take him 69th overall. “Well, the worry was he wouldnt
be there,” general manager Buddy Nix said. “You just dont want to get that close
and not get him.” Graham is regarded as a raw project after a four-year career
at N.C. State, in which he was a full-time starter in only his senior season. He
finished with 99 catches for 1,453 yards and 12 touchdowns in 46 games. Graham
made a bigger impact on special teams, setting the ACC record with 3,153 career
kickoff return yards. His lack of experience at receiver leaves open questions
of how quickly hell be ready for the NFL. “Hes not polished,” coach Chan Gailey
said before noting the players potential. “With that speed and ability and the
attitude he carries to me on the field, if hed been a three-year (starter), hed
have probably been a little bit higher up the board.” Aware of Grahams history,
Gailey is particularly impressed by the players confidence and drive, the
intangibles that cant be measured in draft reports. “Its the old saying of, If
it doesnt kill you, it makes you stronger,” Gailey said. “I think hes become a
stronger person probably because of all hes been around and been exposed to in
life. ... Thats hard to deal with, but obviously, hes turned out great.” Graham
doesnt shy from discussing his past, though BALCOs not something he considers a
conversation starter. To do so, would be to dredge old memories that have
nothing to do with his chances of breaking into the Bills lineup. At the same
time, Graham will attest that what hes overcome has better prepared him for
whats ahead. “It helped me get to this point,” Graham said. “I think without it,
I probably wouldve just been some average guy. But its toughened me up, it grew
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