For University of Miami tight end Jimmy Graham, the promise of an NFL career came to fruition on Friday night, after the New Orleans Saints drafted him in the third round.
The North Carolina native became the first Miami player drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft, taken 95th overall by the defending Super Bowl Champions.
Graham joins former Hurricane great and fellow tight end Jeremy Shockey in the Big Easy, along with linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
"It's a dream come true to play for the New Orleans Saints," Graham said in a news release. "It's a team that I have followed and been a fan of for the last 10 years. No other player will be as hard-working or as passionate as I am going to be. I can't wait for the opportunity to learn under Jeremy Shockey, Drew Brees, and head coach Sean Payton.
"I am so excited and can't wait to get to work. I give a lot of credit to the coaches at Miami for giving me the chance and preparing me for an opportunity to play in the NFL. I owe them a lot for making this dream come true."
In 2009, Graham caught 17 passes for 213 yards, playing in all 13 games and being named to the All-ACC Academic Football Team. He took advantage of his only season on the gridiron by recording five touchdown receptions, the second most on the team behind wide receiver Leonard Hankerson.
Graham enrolled at Miami in 2005 to play basketball under head coach Frank Haith. He started in at least nine games in his four seasons as a forward for the Hurricanes, ranking eighth in UM history with 104 career blocks. In 2007, he was named to the All-ACC Academic Men's Basketball Team.
After four years on the hardwood, Graham put aside his double-zero basketball jersey and traded it in for shoulder pads, a helmet, and the No. 80 jersey.
Graham put behind a troubling childhood, where he had to make decisions for himself when his mother could not. He not only graduated Miami with a Business degree and a double major in Marketing and Management, but made a decision to play football in his fifth year of college, instead of playing professional basketball overseas.
The 23-year-old now has a professional future in football, a sport he last played in ninth grade at Charis Prep Academy in Goldsboro. The decision of playing football paid off for Graham after his name was called on Friday night.
"I started playing football last year and was able to do a lot in the little bit of time that I had and now going to the next level, I’m just excited to take on the opportunities," Graham said in a Saints conference call, about playing college football for a season.