Tight End, Chicago Bears
To say that Chicago Bears tight end Jimmy Graham overcame adversity and sorrow to become one of the best NFL players today wouldn’t quite do justice to his challenging past. A star college student and athlete, Graham transitioned successfully into the NFL as a 2010 draft pick for the New Orleans Saints franchise. Starting at tight end in just his first season, Graham tied or broke many Saints records, leading the NFL in receptions a for tight end at 99, and capped off the year as a selection to play in the Pro Bowl. But Graham’s story is not one to be told about his athletic achievements, which is an incredible story and result in and of itself. Graham’s real triumph comes from his prevailing over an abusive and desolate childhood that could have easily yielded results on the opposite end of the spectrum.
At the age of 11, Graham recalls of the moment he woke up in his mother’s car in front of an orphanage. Simply being tossed out by the only family he knew, Graham was abandoned and left to fend for himself. Beaten by the older children on a regular basis, Graham eventually found solace at a local church where he met Becky Vinson, a single mother who took Graham in and ultimately adopted him as her own. As he finally discovered an opportunity at a new beginning to life, Graham would segue his spectacular high school basketball career (where he earned team and conference MVP as well as all-state honors) to be accepted into the University of Miami Hurricanes program.
It wasn’t until after Graham graduated with his bachelors in marketing and management that he decided to stay to pursue a master’s degree and try out football. Since then, his football accomplishments have continued to grow, mirroring his expanding fan base.
After a highly remarkable first season with the Saints, Graham was voted to receive the 2011 Ed Block Courage Award, recognizing players who overcome adversity and voted by team members. In 2012, he became second all-time for most receiving yards and receiving touchdowns by a tight end in a single season. The same year he was ranked #14 on the NFL Top 100, a poll of the league's best players by the athletes and coaches. To date, Graham is a three-time Pro Bowl Selection. In 2015, Graham was traded to the Seattle Seahawks. In 2018, Graham joined the Green Bay Packers where he teamed up with Pro Bowl Quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Recently Graham signed with the Chicago Bears during the NFL's 2020 free agency period.
An extremely popular and well-regarded member of the locker room, Jimmy Graham continues to receive his unlikely success with great humility and gratitude. With an unwavering belief that hard work and dedication can overcome life’s hardships, Graham is the absolute personification of triumph over circumstance.