Note: This is my Crunch Time column I wrote back in February.
One of the highlights in covering the Cheney High football team’s 2015 season was watching senior Ty Graham tear it up on offense and defense. Last week I got to stand among his family, friends, coaches and classmates as he took the next step of his football career and signed a letter of intent to play football for the University of Idaho.
“I am so thankful for the support of this community,” Graham said after he signed the letter on Feb. 3. “I’m going to remember this time (at Cheney) for the rest of my life.”
After talking with Graham, I learned that football isn’t just a sport to him; it’s a part of his life.
His father John Graham is the associate head coach, tight ends, camp coordinator and travel coordinator for the Eastern Washington Eagles football program. His brother Andrew Graham redshirted for Montana Tech before enrolling at Central Washington University.
“Since birth we could tell he needed to go and play football,” Becky Graham, Ty Graham’s mother, said. “He’s a great leader and we’re extremely proud of him.”
“We’re blessed as a family for the opportunity,” John Graham added. “Ty has worked so hard for this. He did a lot of great things this season.”
During Graham’s senior year – in which the Blackhawks went 10-2 and made it to the first round of the 2A state playoffs – he was voted the Great Northern League offensive and defensive “Player of the Year,” had 1,472 rushing yards on 181 carries and 25 touchdowns. He was also chosen for the All-USA Inland Northwest Team.
Playing football since second-grade, Graham calls it his “go-to sport.” While football is a family tradition – his grandfather Dan Graham was inducted into the Washington State Football Coaches Hall of Fame in January 2008 – he also loves every facet of the game, from being on the field to working out in the weight room and watching game film.
“It’s something I don’t get out of every other sport I’ve played,” Graham said. Besides football, Graham has played basketball and baseball for the Blackhawks.
Graham credits the senior class from his freshman year for setting the standard and teaching him how to be a leader, something he’s proud of.
“I love how much support from my teammates and respect from my coaches,” Graham said. “Coach (Bobby) Byrd and the assistant coaches have given so many hours to us and I can never repay that.”
Byrd, who recently finished his second season coaching the Blackhawks, is excited for Graham to have the opportunity to play Division I football.
“I know he’ll take advantage of this opportunity,” Byrd said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him do big things.”
Graham also noted the support from his classmates and the large student crowds that attended both the home and away games during the regular and postseason.
He wasn’t kidding about the crowds. Every Cheney home football game I went to had the stands filled, at least in the student and home section.
“The student crowds were amazing, it helped make my senior year,” Graham said.
Before signing with Idaho, Graham said he had offers from different schools, including a partial one from EWU. What sold him on playing for Idaho was how dedicated and passionate the players and coaching staff are of Idaho’s football program, which is coming off one of its best seasons in years, going 3-5 in the Sun Belt Conference and 4-8 overall in 2015.
“That was my biggest thing, was how kids liked being in the program,” Graham said. “That mentality is what stuck with me and made me want to commit.”
Although his father coaches at EWU, Ty said father and mother wanted what was best for their son.
“They’ve always supported my decisions,” Graham said. “My dad is very proud me, we stayed up until 11:30 p.m. one night, talking about life.”
Graham may study business, accounting and finance or marketing at Idaho. As for football, he’s said he’ll play a linebacker/safety hybrid position. He’s also looking forward to learning and adjusting to a new speed of football.
“For my position I’m not the heaviest and tallest but I always played with physicality,” Graham said. “I’m looking forward to taking on some Division I athletes.”