Several weeks ago, we hit the field for the Degree DO:MORE Combine. From the bench press to the 40-yard dash to catching passes from the JUGS machine, it was a great opportunity to see what NFL players must do to win over scouts—and score multimillion dollar contracts, of course.
What made it all the more interesting was the fact that next to each test was a display showing how Degree athlete Jimmy Graham had performed. His numbers were, frankly, out of this world. Which makes it easy to understand how he’s a two-time Pro Bowler for the New Orleans Saints, and we edit stories about Scotch and sports cars.
A couple weeks later, we caught up with Jimmy to hear what he thought of our combine performance and ask him about football, fitness and charity work. We’ll spare you the former, but the latter was pretty cool, funny and helpful, check it out.
“I see a lot of gym rats walking around South Beach, and they’re big, huge-armed guys and their legs are so small it’s like: ‘You don’t want to try to play any kind of sport right now. You would get destroyed.’ ”
Next week people will be playing in backyard football Turkey Bowls. You’re known for your good hands, so do you have any tips for catching the ball better?
The number one thing you have to do is look the ball all the way to the hands. Guys are always worried about running after, and you’ll see it all the time, whenever they go to catch the ball, they’ll turn their head immediately. So every practice and whenever I get ready for a game, when that ball’s in the air, I’m literally telling myself, “Jimmy, look it all the way in. Look it in. Look it in.” It’s also good to know what’s around you, so you can take that extra split-second to see it all the way in without getting hit.
Is there a move you can do in the gym that really helps your performance on the field—maybe something people don’t think about?
Always work your legs. And it doesn’t have to be heavy squats. When you don’t have that knee stability and you don’t have that power that runs through your legs, you’re more susceptible to injuries. I live in Miami in the offseason. I see a lot of gym rats walking around South Beach, and they’re big, huge-armed guys and their legs are so small it’s like: “You don’t want to try to play any kind of sport right now. You would get destroyed.” Figure out a way to work your legs—walking lunges, step-ups on a bench, jumping rope…
I’m actually really big on yoga, too. No matter what you do in life, you want to stay flexible. That’s the number one thing that I try to bring in. I see a lot of older players and just older guys who just have a lot of back and lower-body issues, and most of it’s tightness. So for me, in the offseason, I do yoga two days a week.
Wow, good to know.
Which is brutal pain. It’s awful, but as far as my limberness, it enables me to also take those hits and kind of give, and my body’s loose enough to take that.
You have a real passion for flying and you’re involved with this program called Angel Flight. Could you talk about that and the rewards of doing it?
I’ve been able to donate, but my first flight is right after the season’s over. I’m going to use my plane to help get burn victims or kids who need to get chemo or specialized therapy [to hospitals]. I’ll be there at the airport and literally fly them and drop them off. For me, I know growing up I dealt with a lot of things, and all that’s out of your control. These kids can’t help what they’re going through. It’s not their fault, these illnesses that they have, and when someone reaches out and helps you, it means so much. I get so much back in return just seeing that program built. They send me clippings of what’s happened and to see the smiles on these kids’ faces, I don’t think there’s anything that could be better than that.
That’s awesome. Any advice for guys looking to get involved in a charitable activity?
A lot of people don’t put their time in to look for what interests them. Like, you’ve got things that are popular and, “Hey, this is big and this is a great charity that everyone does.” For me, it’s more, “Do what you’re passionate about,” because it will mean so much more to you. If you’re passionate and you’re going to put everything you have into it, it’s going to be that much more fulfilling for you.
Last question. The NFL said you couldn’t dunk the football anymore. The other night you headbutted a bench. Is this the new Jimmy Graham touchdown celebration or are you still experimenting?
It’s not. I was so pumped up. I got back [from my shoulder injury] and that was more of just kind of a stress relief for me. I didn’t think the camera would be on me. But I’m going to stay away from headbutting from now on…