After being drafted in the sixth round by the Chicago Bears in the 2021 NFL Draft, former Oregon DB Thomas Graham Jr. is going through his first preseason NFL camp, and also adjusting to the Chicago lifestyle with new teammate QB Justin Fields.
Fields recently took him to a Chicago Cubs game and Graham was already able to see the excitement around Bears football in Chicago, as fans gave the group a standing ovation at the game.
“It was pretty fun, when they announced my name I was just like dang he got this all set up all along!” Graham said.
Graham hasn’t played in a competitive game since the 2020 Rose Bowl, 19 months ago, and many are wondering how the players who took a year off due to the pandemic will fair at the NFL level. Graham touched on that adjustment process and the difference in speed from collegiate to NFL wide receivers.
“Adjusting to the speed of the game is a little difficult, definitely we’re going against receivers that are faster, but it’s just going back to the basics knowing who you’re going against.” Graham said, “So I know going against Marquise (Goodwin), (Darnell) Mooney, (Damiere) Byrd that they are faster, but I’m also fast too I just got to put myself in position to be able to react and be at the point of the route that I want to be at so, it’s a little difficult but it’s nothing to just make it easier and better for me when I play against somebody else not as fast.”
For Graham, like most NFL players this opportunity is a dream for him.
When asked how eager he is to show he can play and compete at an NFL level, especially after not playing since January 1 2020, it's clear he's ready to see the field.
“I’m more eager to just hop out on the field and play a game in the NFL.” Graham said, “It’s been a dream of mine since I was a child. So, it’s just kind of coming here and conquering it and then being able to live it out as best as I can.”
Graham knows the realities about being a defensive back in the NFL. You'll never be perfect and there will be times where you make a mistake or your back is against the wall. He's mentally prepared for when situations like that pop up in NFL games.
“My dad always preached to me from when I was a freshman in high school, never let the last play affect the next play.” Graham continued, “So just me being a DB I always gotta do that because if I give up a bomb but I stop them at the five, we got four more plays to make sure they don’t score and then now I just turned seven into three.”
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Graham is competing for the last starting DB spot on the Bears, and when asked about his relationship with his teammates who he’s also competing with for a job he responded by putting the team first.
“I think as a whole defensive back room it’s not really a competition...We all gotta eat, we want to share that we the best group on the field every play and day out. It’s always going to be friendly competition, but at the end of the day I want to see all my brothers eat.”
Graham seems to be fitting in well with his new teammates and the defensive back room. He will be battling for the final starting defensive back spot on the Bears roster, and he's ready for that opportunity.
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