As one of the gems of Coach Bobby Johnson’s 2007 recruiting class, Graham has already flashed the potential needed to be a very solid player on the football field. The emergence of D.J. Moore in the Commodore secondary in the fall allowed Graham to take a redshirt year in order to gain more experience, but his talent cannot be ignored; it will be very hard to keep him off the field in 2008. Graham is an exciting athlete who played nearly every position on the field at Nashville’s Whites Creek High School, ranging from running back and wide receiver to punter. However, his brightest future at Vanderbilt Stadium will most likely be in the defensive secondary, perhaps along with some returning duties.
Since the conclusion of the football season, Graham has traded in his pads and cleats for a pair of sneakers, and is currently playing for the Black and Gold in the comfort of Memorial Gym. As he is already on scholarship for football, he is considered a walk-on with the basketball program, allowing him to contribute as needed while not taking up an extra scholarship. While he has yet to earn significant playing time this season, it can be attributed to his struggle to “learn two different positions. I’ve got to learn the point guard and the shooting guard, so I’m just in a transition right now.”
Graham also is working on transitioning from ‘football shape’ to ‘basketball shape,’ and he says “it’s a big difference; basketball is non-stop running and in football you get a break in between each play.” However, he is slowly earning playing time, and Commodore fans should expect to see more and more of him this winter as his understanding of the offense and rapport with his teammates progress.
When asked about the differences in coaching styles between Coaches Johnson and Stallings, Graham laughs and talks about how Kevin Stallings is much more vocal than Bobby Johnson, who is more laid-back. “You know when [Coach Johnson] is mad when he gives you that face,” he says, “but Coach Stallings will make the face and get after you at the same time.”
Primarily used as a defensive stopper, Graham’s contributions rarely stand out in the box score, but anyone within the program will say that he is progressing towards becoming a very good player. Coach Stallings wants him “to go out there and force the other team to make turnovers, and give our team a chance to score points, which we know we can do. We know we can score, so they just want me to help out on defense.” He is finally getting to the point where he can be counted on to provide quality minutes in tight situations, and he relishes that role.
As the Commodores get into the meat of their schedule, Graham knows that he and his teammates have much on which to improve. “We just need to learn how to put it together, not turn the ball over and play defense in the same game,” he says. “That’s the most important thing we need to do, and right now, we have the talent, we’ve got some good guys on this team, and we’re all coachable.” He is very confident in himself and his teammates, and claims that “right now we can compete with a lot of teams, but we can beat every team in the nation if we want to, if we put both of those together, not turning the ball over and just playing good defense.”
Going into Sunday’s tilt with the two-time defending national champion Florida Gators, Graham and his teammates know how much is at stake. After an embarrassing loss at the hands of Tennessee last week, the Commodores were able to bounce back with a convincing win over LSU. However, the Gators are a very young and very talented team, and they should be ready to give a Commodore team coming off an eight-day layoff some stiff competition as they are just starting to peak. “We need to come out and play pressure defense.” He reiterates that “they’re young, so we need to pressure them on defense and make them force unwanted shots. If we make them force unwanted shots, we’re going get the shots we want. We’re not going let them get us out of our game.”
As the 2006 recipient of Nashville’s William Hume award, given to Davidson County’s top student-athlete in football, Jamie Graham has already proven that he has what it takes to be a winner both on and off the field. In both of his sports, Graham’s future in the Black and Gold is very bright indeed.
Jamie Graham redshirted as a freshman during the 2007 football season. (VM/Stan Jones)