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NC State Football

T.J.'s Story: How It All Started

July 25, 2017

In this exclusive feature from Inside Pack Sports, former NC State star receiver T.J. Graham will discuss a variety of topics.  Today T.J. talks about growing up in Raleigh and ultimately signing with the Wolfpack.


It all started for me back in the summer of 1996 when my dad began to train professional track athletes at Paul Derr Track on NC State's campus.  I would go to work with him everyday and just throw the football up and down the field.

I remember one day the kickers and punters coming out to kick, and I would just watch and wait for a ball to bounce on the track near me so I could throw it back to them. For a few weeks i was the same routine, and I would slowly creep closer and closer to the kickers. 

One day I just went for it and introduced myself as seven-year old T.J. Graham to Marc Primanti. The next few weeks before camp started they took the time to teach me how to kcik and punt (I still know how to do both today).

That season i attended almost all of the home games at NC State.  For me, I remember fondly sliding down the south endzone grass on cardboard pizza boxes. During the season I became close with Alvis Whitted because my dad coached him on the track team.

I also started to build a relationship with running backs coach Dick Portee, and over the years coach Port would always make sure I attended the Wolf Puppy Camp.  When he returned back to State i was old enough for the regular three-day camp, which I attended for years (until Chuck left). During the 2000s I befriended all the sons of the coaches because they would come to work with their dads during the summer, and we would roam around Wiesiger-Brown and campus.
Those experiences led to me growing up a big State football fan... I went to almost all of the home games from 1998-2004. - T.J. Graham

Those experiences led to me growing up a big State football fan... I went to almost all of the home games from 1998-2004.  I even remember going to the Micron PC Bowl Game in Miami in 2000... it was played in a stadium that I would later play in while I was in the NFL. 

Fast forward to 2005 and Steve Rivers had moved to Raleigh, North Carolina to become the head coach at Wakefield High School.  I was coming off of injury-shortened junior varsity season, and when coach Rivers saw me during a workout one day, he pulled me up with the varsity kids.  I was scared out of my mother loving mind... I ran for my life everyday and every play.  But, if coach Rivers hadn't believed in me, I don't know if I would have made it as far as I have.  He showed me that I could be better, if I just worked harder.  That season we went undefeated and lost in the Eastern Conference finals to New Bern.

Afterwards letters started rolling in for me.  I literally had bags of them, and when the next season came around coach Chuck [Amato] came to Wakefield and offered me a scholarship.  Later that year the whole staff was let go and Chuck went back to Florida State where he reached out and recruited me heavily to come down there.  Florida State was my second favorite school, and they had recently played in the national championship game so I was really excited. 

Finally, NC State hired Tom O'Brien, and they reached out to tell me they were taking my scholarship away and re-evaluating all of the recruits.  They brought me in for a day camp to see what I could do, and on that day I met my quarterback of the future, Mike Glennon. 

I was fresh out of track season so I could run by anyone. Coach Bible called some plays for us to run, and we got to a Post route.  Well, I have to back-track.  Up to that point, every quarterback would under-throw me. 
My eyes lit up. I think I had a QB crush on Mike G that day. - T.J. Graham
So I looked at Mike and took off, and the ball landed almost five yards in front of me. My eyes lit up.  I think I had a QB crush on Mike G that day.  I ran back to the huddle and said, "let's do it again," and I told him that I can run even faster, just throw it.

Following that day camp the rest is history.  I would text Mike and bother that dude 24/7 to see where he was going until we both committed to NC State later that summer.

That is how it all started for me... my journey to NC State.
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