What was the most amazing thing about D.J. Graham’s already iconic interception last week against Nebraska?
The fact that he got burned for a big completion just a few plays earlier and picked himself up to refocus, cover his man and make an incredible catch?
Or the fact that he didn’t entirely see the football itself, but rather just the flight of the football?
Or the fact that he was completely horizontal as the ball somehow stuck to his tacky right glove?
Or the fact that his childhood idol hit him up on social media afterward?
Or the fact that he’s done this kind of thing before?
Frankly, Graham surprised even himself.
“First of all, I didn’t know I did all that in the air. That’s first of all,” Graham said this week ahead of Saturday’s Big 12 Conference opener against West Virginia. “Second of all, seeing everybody else’s reaction, it was priceless. Seeing Spencer (Rattler)’s reaction and Trae Young’s, was like, ‘Oh, wow, I kinda did something special.’ And for everybody to say this might be the greatest pick of all time, it was astounding. I didn’t even think of it like that, which is crazy.
“I didn’t know I did a 360 or whatever it was, or I was kind of like sideways or whatever. I didn’t know I did all that, which is kind of crazy. Once I saw that, I was like, ‘Oh man. I see where the hype is coming from. I see why everybody’s reacting like that.”
In the era of NIL, it didn’t take long for Graham’s name, image and likeness — while doing something spectacular — to land on a T-shirt.
“I tried to capitalize on that immediately,” Graham said. “I wasn’t really thinking about that really but my teammates were like, ‘Bro, you got to put that on a shirt,’ ‘When’s the merchandise dropping?’ I was like, ‘Oh, wow. OK, maybe I do need to kick this thing off. And the shirts, they’ve been going really well, the sales have been going well, which is a blessing. It kind of took me away by storm but it’s all kind of sinking in now.”
Before becoming a T-shirt, Graham became a social media sensation.
“As soon as I put on my Apple Watch, my wrist was like, it was going crazy. It was vibrating like crazy,” he said. “I look at my phone because it has a flash alert on and I might as well have just turned the flashlight on, because it was going crazy. Every single time I refreshed Twitter, refreshed Instagram, it just kept buzzing.
“I had like 4,000 followers on Instagram and that went from 4,000 to 13K. … It was wild. Especially after I saw the big-time alumni like Kenny Stills, Adrian Peterson, Joe Mixon said something about it, CeeDee Lamb, Kenneth Murray. It was exciting. Yeah.”
It wasn’t just former Sooners. At some point, Odell Beckham Jr. — perhaps the originator of the over-the-head one-handed grab during a game against Dallas back in 2015.
Every time somebody makes a great over-the-head catch like this, Beckham’s social media fires up. This time, though, even OBJ couldn’t avoid acknowledging the impossible greatness of the catch.
“It means the world to me,” Graham said. “I played receiver literally all the way up til high school. I thought I was going to go to college and play receiver. All my offers were pretty much as an athlete or as a receiver. So for him to say something — oh my gosh, it was like ‘Wow. I can’t believe it.’ Like I said, he was my idol. At one point, he was my wallpaper. I bought his cleats. I was always trying to practice one hands, but when he did it, I was like, ‘Man, this is what I’ve been practicing.’ And I kind of gravitated toward him ever since.”
Graham tried his best to describe what looked impossible to everyone else. It was like listening to a magician explain his magic act without quite giving away the secret.
“I think what made this catch special is it was a little bit behind my head. I really didn’t see it,” Graham said. “I saw it a little bit before it went over my head but probably my body positioning, I slowed it down and I saw that I was kind of like laying in bed, and I was like, ‘Woah, OK, that’s pretty cool.’ But other than that, it was, I guess, that’s one of the catches I practice a lot, kind of coming over with the right hand.
“I knew he was throwing it to my man, but I just thought he overthrew him. So I was like, ‘Oh, shoot, let me just jump.’ I was like, ‘OK.’ Because I was trying to go up with two but it ended up only a one-handed catch.
“I think a little bit of a part of it always is it’s up to God. It’s a God-given talent. But I also think it’s a cognitive ability … to really track the rotation of the ball. That’s the whole point in catching, is really tracking how the ball’s rotation and catching with your fingertips. I think that’s where a lot of people go wrong when the try to catch the ball. They try to catch the ball with their whole hands. It’s really your fingertips.
“I guess, I mean, my body and my brain’s doing all the calculating, when to jump, if I need to jump off one foot, two feet, when I need to jump, I think I really — it kind of feels like I see it in slow motion. I don’t know how to describe it but it just seems like everything’s happening in slow motion.
“But I think it’s a lot of practice. I would always stay after practice. If we had a jug (ball machine), I would try to catch it with one hand or just have somebody throw to me. Odell, he said this too, just really trying to catch the ball at all different kind of angles, maybe behind your head. I remember in high school, I caught the ball behind my back. You don’t have to see the ball to catch the ball in theory, to me, because I’ve done it before. But it just takes a bunch of practice.”