BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 03/13/2015

Thiel: Welcome, Jimmy, to Team Unconventional

Jimmy Graham’s bleak start in life didn’t stop him from graduating with honors from college, getting his pilot’s license or being in a little awe of his new job in Seattle.

Jimmy Graham’s post=touchdown crossbar dunks were outlawed by the NFL. /

Jimmy Graham grew up in North Carolina never knowing his biological father. By the time he was 11, he was in foster care.

“My mom was getting paid $98 a month from my father for child support,” he told ESPN in 2011. “My stepdad wanted that money, and my mom said, ‘No, I’m not going to give it to you.’ So my (step) dad dropped me off at the doorstep of social services. When I was a kid, I used to think about what my worth was. Ninety-eight dollars, I guess, was what I was worth when I was 9.”

As a young adult, he developed sufficient stability to graduate from college with honors in a double major (marketing and management), star in two sports, become good enough to be first-team All-Pro in the NFL and manage himself and his time well enough to earn his private pilot’s license.

So the idea that he might be furious/dismayed/distraught at seemingly being rejected by his only pro team . . . well, no. He has known worse and come out the other side.

But shocked? Sure.

“Definitely shocking,” he said Thursday during a teleconference with Seattle-area reporters from his home in South Florida. In that feeling, he was joined by exactly everyone who works for or follows the NFL who heard of his unforecasted trade to Seattle.

Shock is, of course, what the Seahawks do.

Whether it is choosing an unexpected first-round draft choice, or being the first losing team to make the playoffs and then beating the defending Super Bowl champions, or trading for Charlie Whitehurst, or offering players meditation and free-range chicken, or being last in passing and winning a Super Bowl, or spending a fortune on acquiring a rare player and then firing him 18 months later with almost nothing in return, or being the first team in a decade to return to the Super Bowl as defending champs, or being on the wrong end of the most critical play in the history of the Super Bowl . . . the Seahawks shock.

When the Shock-hawks see an apple cart, they cannot resist the urge to upend it.

So Jimmy Graham, a most unconventional dude, welcome to Team Unconventional. Wait until you get a heaping helping of Marshawn Lynch.

So you met Pete Carroll, the Albus Dumbledore of Hogwarts by the Lake?

“Man, I love him,” Graham said. “He puts a smile on my face. He really is a player’s coach. Walking into the building (Wednesday), I sensed really there was a buzz there, a sense of urgency to win — and not just win but win championships and rings.

“He knew so much about me. Half the stuff I forgot about myself. That really was something that impressed me. He called, honestly, about every person in my life.”

That is how someone gets to be a wizard — knowing many things, then casting spells spun with facts and belief.

Graham is already transfixed, partly because he was susceptible, having watched the Seahawks from the other side as his Saints team was taken apart twice in six weeks at the end of the 2013 season.

“Right after the first game, the first thing I noticed was how close they were as an entire unit – not only their defense, but their offense,” he said. “When their offense is on the field, their defensive guys are right there screaming and yelling, and being fans of their offense. When their defense is out there, their offense is doing the same thing.

“It just seems like they have a culture there that breeds a brotherhood. They pull for each other and they kind of compete. It seems like, for them, it’s all about winning — it’s not about individual anything. It’s all about: ‘What does it take to get the win?’ I’m really looking forward to being a part of that.”

To be a part of that, it’s more than just being invited. Somewhere in the coming months, in the locker room or on the practice field well before the real games, Graham will have to do some winning of his own.

He has to convince a room heavy with alpha males that he is not a wuss.

Graham was branded as such when, in a verbal confrontation before the playoff rematch, LB Bruce Irvin, who found Graham on the wrong side of the 50-yard line, began woofing.

According to Irvin’s post-game account, Graham screamed, “I’m Jimmy!”

Responded Irvin: “Who’s Jimmy? I don’t know no Jimmy!”

After the game, Seahawks DE Michael Bennett declared Graham “soft” and “overrated.”

Graham dismissed the jabs as typical excesses in rhetorical combat.

“Whenever we’re all getting ready for a playoff game, you know how serious those games are and you’re trying to motivate your guys,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotion that goes into those games. It’s all about doing whatever it takes to get guys fired up and to get the emotion running.

“For me, that’s just a part of the game. We play a contact sport and you have to be aggressive in everything you do. I’m excited to sit down  — some have called me — to really get to know these guys, become one of their brothers and work towards winning a championship.”

For a kid once imagined to be valued at $98, he has come a ways. But his next step, joining with Team Unconventional, may provide him, as it has with many newbies around the Seahawks, a little shock.

The awe part, he has nailed.


  • coug73

    Wow, the merry go round ride of Hawk football is some ride. I’m sure more surprises to come. Mr. Graham the Hawk ride includes a Super Bowl Ring. Seize it.

    • Art Thiel

      Damndest team I’ve covered.

  • 1coolguy

    Wow – what a great story of personal success. His 3 parents – what a bunch of total losers. I would like to know what happened to his life after he was dropped off – I bet it is a story well worth reading.

    • Art Thiel

      Graham is a helluva story.

    • notaboomer

      some sleazy doods followed his hs b-ball career and when he ended up 6-7 and huge they marketed him to a college b-ball program for a commission then got dumped for sleazier agents when he switched to football. the usual story.

  • jafabian

    His dad wouldn’t part with $98 a month. Now his kid makes $10 million annually. Hope his deadbeat dad realizes what he’s missing out on: a great kid with a positive outlook on life who’s been taken care of by the NFL. Looking forward to seeing him hook up with Russell Wilson next season. Or Jon Ryan. Whoever is throwing the ball.

    • Art Thiel

      Hard to make this stuff up.

    • 1coolguy

      Don’t leave out his mom and step-father. All 3 are abhorrent.

  • John M

    I’m getting used to these shocks, it becomes a drug actually, and Jimmy is all well and good, I think we can grow to love him. But can we now turn our attention to O-linemen? Big surly guys that don’t talk much but make everything work for the anointed? I’d like to see a 300+ pounder in the line that was told he was only worth 98 bucks when he was a kid. That guy will be hard to block . . .

    • Art Thiel

      One thing at a time John. Manage your meds carefully in the offseason.

  • Sonics79

    Fascinating to hear the story about his childhood. He should fit in here just fine. I really liked his comments. One thing this signing has done too is ended our Super Bowl hangover.

    • Art Thiel

      You have a point. Listening to Graham, I found his voice and his storytelling genuine. My bullshit detector is always set on stun, and I didn’t feel the need to pull it out of my holster.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    A great way to take the sting out of last years SB49 hic cup….. offensively challenged is no longer a pertinent charge. With the 4th toughest schedule in the NFL they needed this as the name of the game will always be scoring more TDs than the other guy to win your division and get home field advantage.

    Max is a great warrior.Well liked and one of the best at his craft.This also describes Graham however and every grandma in the region knows Seattle was offense
    starved. Did they need the guy who is #3 in TD scores in the league?Yes
    and now they have both #1 (Lynch)and #3 on that list. I will miss Max
    and the NFL is a rotten business but Max could very well be the
    sacrifice to the NFL gods that will bring the region a SB50 winner.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    If Jimmy truely is all world at the TE position it is nothing short of shocking that the Saints were willing to part with the part time Diva…He(Graham)may feel he is the best damned player on his team but he is going to have to step it up a little from the “I’m Jimmy Grahams” if he thinks he is going to supplant Lynch as diva on this team…. but it does put a glow on that we have such offensive firepower now. I bet RW can hardly sleep now thinking about that bump up in TD passes he will enjoy in 2015.

  • PokeyPuffy

    wow it is amazing to hear about his childhood. Abandonment at that advanced age (9!) would likely require much counseling to get over. In alota ways he has more excuses than Marshawn to be a head case, but it looks like he’s made some great decisions.

    I also think its great to have some star power in the receiving group. I liked our overachieving/undercompensated receivers but clearly there were limitations in 2014. Now its our offensive line that will have to be the value proposition….

    GO HAWKS Looking forward to 2015!

  • I might be wrong, but I think the Seahawks should have kept Max. The O-Line is in need of some bailing wire and twine, and a big TE may or may not be the glue that sticks.

    Nothing against Jimmy. I’m sure he’ll be awesome, but I don’t think we should have traded away our standout C to get him.