“Ray, get your nose on your own practice field!” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin would holler, and then in all seriousness Tomlin would add: “You’re not on this team!”
Tomlin would turn back to the reporters standing next to him along the Steelers’ sideline and chuckle.
“The guys who keep looking over here, who think they belong over here, those are the guys who do belong,” Tomlin said. “Shady was the same way. One time I walked in the training room and he was in the whirlpool with Willie Parker. I said, ‘Shady, get outta here.’”
LeSean “Shady” McCoy would look good in a Steelers uniform about now.
Hey, so would Dion Lewis.
LaRod Stephens-Howling anyone?
Yes, the Steelers, with three free agents and without a jettisoned Chris Rainey, are in a bind at running back. They could use any of the aforementioned Pitt men.
How about it, Ray?
“It’d be great,” said Graham. “I’ve been there and seen a lot of practices, so I felt like I’ve been a part of it already. I already visioned it.”
Graham was specific with his wording. He didn’t mean EN-vision. His emphasis was more akin to tunnel-vision.
“I’m always talking about vision,” Graham said. “That’s always the thing in the Bible. You’re supposed to have vision, vision that you put into reality. That’s why you dream big, man. I just think that, so, yeah, I believe it.
“I was on his field,” Graham continued. “I practiced on his field. So one day when I’m on his field again it’ll be second nature to me.”
So, Graham remembers Tomlin’s teasing?
“Oh, yeah,” Graham said with a chuckle. “He was always bothering me. Coach Mike, man, he’s a great guy. I get a kick out of Coach Mike. He’s a good dude. He knows how to turn it on. He knows how to motivate you.”
Graham has never been the type to need motivation. The half-brother of Rutgers linebacker prospect Khaseem Graham and son of former Purdue running back Raymond Graham loves the game, says “it’s where I can be free.” He even gives his moves names.
“I name them as I go,” Graham said. “I don’t really have a favorite move; I just like my chances one-on-one. I just think I’m going to get the best of you.”
Graham hopes to follow McCoy, Stephens-Howling and Lewis into the NFL, and succeed, as they are.
Graham, at 5-9, 199, fits right in with the group, size-wise, and statistically he finished ahead of all of them. Graham’s 3,271 rushing yards and 4,943 all-purpose yards both rank second in school history behind Tony Dorsett.
Graham showed up at the NFL Combine about 10 pounds over his playing weight last season, but just above the 197 he was playing at as a junior when he tore his right ACL eight weeks into the season.
He returned last year to rush for 1,042 yards, but a hamstring injury took him out of the Compass Bowl. Graham returned to play in the East-West Shrine Game, but fumbled on his first carry.
“Yeah, that killed me,” he said here Friday. “I felt bad, too, man, but you move on. That’s the only thing.”
Ball security isn’t an issue in scouts’ minds. They watched him closely the last four seasons. They saw him run inside with power, outside with speed, catch (98 receptions for 799 yards), and return kickoffs (38 at 22.1 avg.). They want to see something else this weekend.
“I know a lot of people doubt me,” Graham said. “They don’t know that I’m back yet. But I just want to let everybody know that I’m here to do everything, and I’m healthy, I’m feeling good, and I’m back.”
The Steelers already know plenty about Graham and haven’t talked to him here. He said he was getting an MRI during the bulk of his meeting night.
What about the MRI results?
“The MRI was good. I came in today and they said the knee’s looking good,” said the player who wants to be like Marshall Faulk more than anyone else.
But if McCoy (2nd round), Lewis (5th) and Stephens-Howling (7th) are the gauges, Graham can figure to be drafted anywhere from the third through fifth rounds.
Does he realize the Steelers are looking for a running back?
“Oh, yeah, definitely,” Graham said. “Come and get me.”