HEART AND SOUL
BRANDON GRAHAM IS THE LONGEST-TENURED EAGLE ON DEFENSE
BY CHRIS McPHERSON
Vinny Curry sits in his locker stall at the
NovaCare Complex, lacing up his Carolina
blue Nike high-tops. The eighth-year
defensive end is in a gregarious mood,
casually engaging in a conversation when
a question elicits a spark. Curry is asked
whether he’s at all surprised that head
coach Doug Pederson called Brandon
Graham the “heart and soul” of the team.
“Hell no, I’m not shocked to hear that,”
Curry says all fired up. “That dude is like my
brother. Even last year, it didn’t feel right
without him (Curry was in Tampa Bay). I
never took an NFL snap or played an NFL
game without him. I couldn’t be happier
for a nicer guy. All the success he deserves,
everything that’s coming his way.”
Graham is in his 10th season after being
the 13th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
The longest-tenured Eagle on the defensive
side of the ball, Graham signed a threeyear
extension on March 1 to hopefully
spend his entire career in midnight green.
Graham is one of the most jovial people
you will ever encounter. Always sporting
a smile. Always engaging with people,
lighting up the room. On clean-out day to
conclude the 2018 season, Graham stood
in the hallway outside the locker room and
shook hands, high-fived, or hugged every
member of the media.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Graham,
however. A promising rookie season was
derailed by a torn ACL that limited him to
just three games in his second year. Graham
always had backers in his corner. He points
to the longest-tenured Eagle Jason Peters
and former defensive end Trent Cole as
teammates who offered support. They told
him to practice hard and take advantage of
whatever reps he had.
“My mindset was when I get back, they’re
going to wish they never said what they
said,” Graham says of his critics. “I still feel
like that now. They are going to pay for
what they said because I was injured.”
With 5.5 sacks in a full 16 games in 2012,
it looked as if Graham started to turn the
corner. However, the 2013 season brought
a new coaching staff and scheme. Graham
went from a hand-in-the-dirt 4-3 defensive
end to an edge rusher in a 3-4 front. He
played just 27 percent of the snaps and
totaled three sacks and two tackles for
loss. He acclimated to his new position in
2014 with a significant uptick in tackles for
loss (13.5) as well as playing time.
The Eagles banked on Graham continuing
to ascend as a player and signed him to
a four-year contract. He was an opening
day starter for the first time in 2015 and
delivered what was then a career-high 6.5
sacks in 858 snaps, still a personal best.
The hiring of Jim Schwartz as the defensive
coordinator in 2016 meant a return to
defensive end for Graham. He has started
every game since, minus the 2017 regularseason
finale when the Eagles rested a
majority of the starters.
In that Super Bowl-winning campaign,
Graham tallied a career-high 9.5 sacks
and 16 tackles for loss. He was also
voted a team captain on defense. Then,
Graham cemented his status as a legend
in the Eagles community with the play that
Schwartz, and fans all around the world,
will remember fondly years from now.
“I think when it’s all said and done, when
I’m in a rocking chair somewhere and I
think of Brandon Graham, I’m still going
to think of the forced fumble in the Super
Bowl, and that was from a defensive tackle
position,” Schwartz said.
The strip-sack of future Hall of Fame
quarterback Tom Brady in the fourth
quarter led to a Jake Elliott field goal that
gave the Eagles a 41-33 lead with just 1:05
remaining. It is one of the greatest plays in
the history of the franchise.
“Wow, what a blue-collar player, an
incredible person in the locker room.
Loved by everybody,” Chairman and CEO
Jeffrey Lurie says. “He just gives it his all.
It was nice to see him produce one of the
most iconic moments, not just for the
Eagles, but in NFL history.
“He deserved it. He had done all of the
work and timed it. He found the one
vulnerability, that moment with Tom, and
usurped it. He timed his move perfectly.”
“Football turned into something that I
did not expect it to turn into,” says Tasha
Graham, Brandon’s mother.
Growing up in Detroit, Brandon was always
a bouncing ball of energy. Tasha recalls
meeting with Brandon’s kindergarten
teacher and being told that Brandon,
despite getting good grades, would
eventually be a discipline problem. Tasha
took the criticism to heart. As a single
parent, Tasha did everything in her power
to keep Brandon on the straight and
narrow. She figured that she had to keep
Brandon busy or the streets would take
care of that.
“When she told me that Brandon was
going to have a discipline problem,” Tasha
recalls, “I said, ‘Not on my watch. Not
“She would be leery about a lot of stuff
because it was Detroit,” Brandon says.
“She didn’t want her son doing anything
2019 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES GAMEDAY MAGAZINE 25