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November 7, 2008

Graham giving to Cincy on the field and off it

By: Jimmy Robertson

Shayne GrahamCourtesy of Cincinnati Bengals

Shayne Graham works two jobs these days.

With one, he gets paid extremely well. With the other, he gets handsomely rewarded.

As most Tech fans know, Graham is still kicking it in the NFL, serving as the kicker for the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s a job that he performs with the utmost precision, holding nearly every Cincinnati kicking record after joining the organization in 2003 and ranking as the most accurate active kicker in the NFL (85.8 percent). He also ranks second all-time among kickers ever to play in the NFL.

But Graham’s accomplishments on the field pale drastically to the work he does off it.

The former Pulaski County [Va.] High School standout has become the king of charitable projects in the Queen City. Some of his endeavors include the following:

  • Cincinnati Freestore/Foodbank – He serves as a board member and has helped raised more than $100,000 toward providing meals for the hungry in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. He found a sponsor that donates $300 for every field goal that he makes to the Freestore/Foodbank, and he invites three children for every field goal made to an end-of-the-year banquet at the Cincinnatian Hotel.
  • Kicks for Kids – He has teamed with former Cincinnati kickers Doug Pelfrey – who started this organization – and Jim Breech and other corporate partners to provide area at-risk children with opportunities to pursue their dreams. This includes children who are mentally and physically challenged. With Graham helping, the organization has provided nearly $1.25 million in assistance since 1995 and recently purchased 16 acres of land in Ohio to build a youth complex to reach even more kids.
  • Shayne Graham Foundation – In August, his own foundation formed a partnership with the Cincinnati Ronald McDonald House. He and a team of kids built a go-kart in the shape of a football to participate in a soapbox race that helped raise money for the cause.
  • Strikeouts for Troops – This organization was founded by San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito as a way to assist America’s war-wounded with ‘comforts of home.’ Graham read about this and approached Zito, wanting to help. He became the first NFL player to hop on board, pledging $300 for every field goal made this season to the organization. Helping the troops ranks high on Graham’s list of priorities. His father, Tom Graham, served in Vietnam, and Shayne Graham often visits V.A. hospitals in Virginia and Cincinnati.

For all that work within the community, he was named the Bengals’ nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year last year – an honor that ultimately went to Jason Taylor, then of the Miami Dolphins.

“I’ve really always wanted to be involved in the community,” Graham said. “But until I got to Cincinnati, I was never in one place long enough to get involved.

“Now I am and I enjoy it. I would not have gotten to where I am without the help of others. My family’s always supported me and I have had great coaches and great teammates. Since I’ve been here, I wanted to make this place my home and I want to help the people within this community. I’ve started my own foundation and we’ve gotten involved in 45-50 different events this year already.”

The Shayne Graham Foundation ( is a non-profit organization that provides resources to underserved children and other charitable initiatives. The mission is simply to lend assistance to those in need and be an organization that makes a lasting impression, empowers those who want to make a difference, and strengthens communities.

Even with a hectic schedule off the field, Graham makes sure to get plenty of practice time in to excel on it. This season marks his sixth in Cincinnati and he represents the model of consistency. He’s made 163 of 190 field-goal attempts for his career, a success rate of 85.8 percent.

“I think just being consistent every day and with every kick has helped me the most,” Graham said. “I’m not the type of person who gets down when I miss a kick and I don’t get too excited when I make one. That approach has been working well for me.”

Graham finally got his big break right before the 2003 season after bouncing around with a couple of teams. He spent part of 2002 with the Carolina Panthers after John Kasay went down with an injury. But the Panthers decided to go with Kasay the following season, and Graham found himself looking for a job.

“I really hadn’t been in a competitive situation no matter how well I had kicked,” he said. “In the NFL, teams kind of go with the guy who has experience, the guy they know. John Kasay was a guy who had been around forever and had proven himself, so I understood.

“I was just hoping to catch a break at some point because I knew I had the confidence to kick in this league. I never had a lack of confidence. It was just a matter of opportunity, and once I got it, I prepared myself to make the best of it.”

In 2003, Darrin Simmons, a Panthers’ special teams coach, took the job as the special teams coach in Cincinnati. He encouraged the Bengals to sign Graham, and Graham’s been getting in his kicks ever since. In 2005, he made his first Pro Bowl.
“I’ve really been comfortable here,” he said. “Everything has worked out.”

And not just for him. It’s worked out quite well for a lot of local charities and organizations in the Cincy area, too.

HOKIES IN THE PROS (28 as of Nov. 2nd)

Arizona Cardinals

25 Eric Green – The former Tech cornerback has started every game for the Cardinals this season. He has 23 tackles (19 solo), and an interception, the second of his career. A year ago, he started 11 games for the Cardinals and finished with 51 tackles (47 solo).

Baltimore Ravens

Justin Harper – Harper, a seventh-round pick of the Ravens, stuck with Baltimore throughout training camp, but was dropped during the last series of cuts before opening day. Still, he signed with the Ravens’ practice squad and probably will spend the rest of the season there.

Buffalo Bills

93 Chris Ellis – Ellis, whom the Bills took in the third round of April’s NFL Draft, went into this season as a back-up at the end spots. He was not activated for the first five games, but the Bills activated him for the sixth game (he did not play) and he played sparingly in their next two games, losses to the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets, for his first action this season.

Carolina Panthers

50 James Anderson – Anderson went into his third season with the Panthers as a back-up at the weakside linebacker spot. He was not activated for the first six games this season, but has played in every game since. He recorded a solo tackle in the Panthers’ win over the Saints, his first and only tackle this season.

87 Jeff King – King serves as the starter at tight end for the Panthers, and has started seven of eight games this season. He has 13 catches for 122 yards, an average of 9.4 yards per catch, but hasn’t gotten into the end zone as of yet.

Chicago Bears

34 Kevin Jones – After spending four injury-plagued years with the Lions, Jones signed with the Bears in the offseason, and has played in seven games thus far. He has rushed for 109 yards on 33 carries to rank second on the team.

Cincinnati Bengals

17 Shayne Graham – Graham has started seven games with the Bengals this season, missing two games because of a groin injury. He made 11 of his first 12 field-goal attempts to start the season for the Bengals, with a long of 45 yards, and all of his eight extra-point attempts. A year ago, he made 31 of 34 field-goal attempts, with a long of 48, and all 37 of his extra-point attempts.

Cleveland Browns

27 Nick Sorensen – Sorensen, now in his eighth NFL season, participates mostly on special teams for the Browns, while also serving as a back-up at the safety spots. He has played in every game thus far, and has 14 tackles (12 solo) and a half of a sack.

Denver Broncos

60 John Engelberger – Engelberger, a former defensive lineman at Tech, starts for the Broncos at end and started the first six games this season before missing a game with an injured knee. He has played in seven games and has 15 tackles (14 solo) and a sack on the season.

75 Carlton Powell – The Broncos took the former Tech defensive tackle in the fifth round of this past April’s NFL Draft, but he won’t be playing this season. Powell tore his Achilles tendon during an offseason workout and will miss the entire season.

19 Eddie Royal – Royal started the first five games for Denver before missing the sixth game with an injured ankle. He returned to the starting lineup for the next game and has caught 46 passes for 461 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also returned 10 punts for an average of 13.8 yards per return and rushed three times for 15 yards. And he returned five kickoffs for an average of 35 yards per return.

Green Bay Packers

37 Aaron Rouse – Rouse, a third-round pick in 2007, moved into the starting role at free safety after two games and has started four of the Packers’ seven games this season. His shining moment of the season came in the Packers’ win over Indianapolis in which he intercepted a pass and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown. He has 34 tackles (25 solo) and the one interception so far this season.

Houston Texans

11 André Davis – Davis, now in his seventh NFL season, serves as the third receiver for the Texans after signing a long-term deal with them in the offseason and has played in six of the Texans’ eight games this season – he missed two games because of an injured finger. He has caught seven passes for 123 yards and returned 26 kickoffs for 576 yards, an average of 22.2 yards per return.

75 Brandon Frye – Frye went into this season hoping to get some playing time, but the Texans waived him right before the season began. They signed him to their practice squad on Sept. 4th, however, and he’ll probably spend the season there.

76 Duane Brown – Brown went to the Texans in the first round of this past April’s NFL Draft and started every game at left tackle for the team. He continues to fair pretty well – he’s only committed two penalties thus far.

52 Xavier Adibi – The Texans drafted former Tech linebacker Xavier Adibi back in April and he plays as a reserve at linebacker. He’s played in one game so far, seeing action on special teams in the Texans’ loss to Jacksonville.

Jacksonville Jaguars

20 Pierson Prioleau – Prioleau signed with the Jaguars in the offseason to be a back-up at both safety spots and to play on special teams after spending three seasons with the Redskins mainly in a similar role. He has played in every game thus far for the Jaguars, starting one of those, and has 18 tackles (17 solo) on the season.

75 Jonathan Lewis – The former Tech defensive tackle landed with the Jaguars in mid-August and expected to add depth to their line. But Lewis suffered a knee injury in the preseason finale against Washington and was placed on injured reserve. He will miss the 2008 season.

Kansas City Chiefs

24 Brandon Flowers – Flowers has picked up where he left off when he decided to leave Tech following his redshirt junior season, starting the first five games for Kansas City and seven of the first eight. The second-round pick came up big in the Chiefs’ loss to the Jets when he picked off two Brett Favre passes and returned one 91 yards for a touchdown. He has 37 tackles (31 solo) on the season and the two interceptions.

Miami Dolphins

19 Ernest Wilford – Wilford, Tech’s all-time leading receiver, signed a big deal with the Dolphins in the offseason, but has gotten off to a slow start. He had caught just one pass for 15 yards and has played in just three of eight games for Miami, which did not activate him for the other five games.

New Orleans Saints

61 Matt Lehr – Lehr’s contract was terminated in early September, but the Saints re-signed him shortly thereafter and the former Tech offensive lineman started at guard in the Saints’ 37-32 win over San Diego. The nine-year veteran has played in five games so far this season.

New York Jets

17 David Clowney – Clowney, now in his second season, was activated for the first time this season when the Jets activated him for their game against Kansas City. He played in that game, but did not catch a pass. The former Tech receiver landed with the Jets last fall after being drafted by Green Bay, and he spent the remainder of the season on the Jets’ practice squad.

Oakland Raiders

64 Jake Grove – The former Tech center is now playing in his fifth season with Oakland and starts for the Raiders at center, beating out John Wade for the starting job. He has started every game thus far, bouncing back from last season when he played in just seven games, missing the majority of the season because of a knee injury.

23 DeAngelo Hall – Hall starts at cornerback for Oakland and has started every game this season. He struggled when matched up with former Tech receiver Eddie Royal during the teams’ meeting earlier this season, but he has recorded 48 tackles (43 solo) on the year to go with a half of a sack and three interceptions.

Seattle Seahawks

55 Darryl Tapp – After starting all of last season, the former Tech defensive end finally broke into the starting lineup this season after playing as a reserve in the first five games. He has 29 tackles (22 solo) and a sack so far this season. He recorded 49 tackles, including 41 solo stops, and seven sacks a year ago. He also intercepted a pass.

San Francisco 49ers

84 Josh Morgan – Morgan, a sixth-round pick of the 49ers in April’s NFL Draft, had a breakout game against the Giants when he caught five passes for 86 yards, including a 30-yarder that went for a touchdown – his first in the NFL. That performance earned him the starting nod against Seattle in the 49ers’ next game – the first start of his career. He has caught 11 passes for 160 yards and the one score, and he also plays on special teams. He has four tackles on special teams, including three solo ones.

Tennessee Titans

22 Vincent Fuller – The former Tech defensive back continues to flourish in Tennessee for the undefeated Titans, having seen action in every game, including the first start of his career, which came in the Titans’ win over Green Bay. He has 34 tackles, including 24 solo stops, and he has recovered a fumble and forced a fumble. He served as the Titans’ nickel back a year ago and he returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

Jason Murphy – Murphy, a former Tech guard, ended up being cut by the Titans in late August. But the Titans signed him to their practice squad a couple of days later and he’ll probably spend the rest of the season there.