Graham bounces back in front of NFL scouts
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
He ran for 3,271 yards, scored 32 touchdowns and recovered from a crippling knee injury sooner than anyone expected.
Yet four years after arriving at Pitt, Ray Graham is still proving himself.
The process resumed Wednesday at Pitt's UPMC Sports Performance Complex when 12 seniors worked out for scouts from 17 NFL teams. Graham, who ran a miserable time of 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine last month, improved to a range of 4.58 to 4.62, according to times from three NFL teams.
Graham said his NFL hopes should rest on more than those few seconds.
“I'm not disrespecting the 40, but people play football,” he said. “Not disregarding or trying to make up for what I ran because I ran a 4.8.
“But I knew that wasn't me at all (at the combine). If anybody knows me, I'm more so quick than fast. I wanted to show them I can get out of holes quick. I play football. That's what I love to do. You can put me on the field with anybody.”
The theme of Pitt's pro day was players reinventing themselves.
Aside from Graham trying to show he is faster than the perception:
• Guard Chris Jacobson put his surgically repaired knees to the test after losing nine pounds.
• Center Ryan Turnley lost 10 pounds to 304 in an attempt to showcase his athleticism.
• Mike Shanahan checked in at 241 pounds, 11 over his playing weight, while he makes the transition from wide receiver to tight end.
“Everything you are doing is geared for today,” Turnley said.
Jacobson, Turnley, Shanahan, tight end Hubie Graham and quarterback Tino Sunseri worked out the past two months in Buffalo with former Pitt strength coach Buddy Morris.
“When I first got there, I couldn't even jump,” Jacobson said.
“But today I jumped 27 inches (vertically). My broad jump was 8 feet. I was broad jumping 3 feet.”
He said he was pleased with his unofficial 40 time of 5.1 at 302 pounds.
“I haven't run that in a while,” he said.
Turnley said his vertical jump was 30 inch and his broad 9 feet, 1 inch. He lifted 225 pounds 15 times — kicker Kevin Harper did 12 — but Turnley said there is more to his game than strength.
“I'm not one of those big, burly offensive linemen,” he said. “They'll see. They'll turn on the film and see me getting after guys.”
Shanahan's training took an opposite turn.
“I just tried to eat a lot more than usual, and I drank a lot of water before I jumped on the scale,” said Shanahan, who noted that a Steelers representative clocked him at 4.69.
Jacobson, who was on a strict diet, said he planned to celebrate the end of his intensive training by going out to eat with former Pitt teammate John Malecki. Then it's just a matter of staying sharp and waiting for the draft at the end of April.
“I'll be nervous to see what happens,” he said.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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