Jimmy Graham: A Story of Survival & Beating the Odds

Overcoming abuse and abandonment, the inspiring NFL star tackles life head on

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New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham

Most of the public is only recently becoming aware of the story of Jimmy Graham. I find this very unfortunate, but true. Graham is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints football team. As of this writing, he is the leading tight end in the NFL in terms of receptions and touchdowns. But most importantly, he is proving to be a true “baller” in the game of life!

Born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina, this 24-year-old has scored big both on and off the field. Just imagine, at the age of 11, being put in a parent’s car and then being dropped off at an orphanage.

Well, unfortunately for Graham, he doesn’t have to imagine–this was his life. Graham recounts the story of him being in the backseat of a van with his housemates from the orphanage and being beaten until his eyes were swollen shut. He called his mother and asked her to pick him up and she simply hung up the phone. Ouch!

After bouncing around from house to house, he was eventually taken into the home of his future adoptive mother, Becky Vinson during his high school years.

According to Graham, he and his biological mother are “slowly rebuilding a relationship, but it’s moving very slowly… I told her that I forgive her, but I won’t forget.”

Graham is a better man than me. I’m very impressed with the way he presents himself on TV. But, his attitude towards his mother goes to the type of character he has. Isn’t it a shame that more people are aware of Beyoncé’s pregnancy than Graham’s story?

Graham, who now stands 6’6” and 260 pounds, earned a basketball scholarship to attend the University of Miami (commonly referred to as “The U”). He played football in his last year of school (along with four years of basketball) and graduated in 2009 with a double major in marketing and management. He then enrolled in graduate school so he could play one year of football. During the 2010 NFL draft, Graham was picked by the New Orleans Saints in the third round (95th overall pick) and signed to a four year, $ 2.5 million contract.

There’s a lot more to this story, but because of space constraints, there is not enough room to write about everything; but just Google his name and you can read all the details of this fascinating person (or watch ESPN’s profile below). So, the next time you hear or read a negative story about a professional athlete, just think about Michael Vick or Jimmy Graham. Most professional athletes are good, upstanding citizens. Don’t allow the media to cloud your views because of a few bad apples.

Jimmy Graham’s story makes you cry, makes you angry, and makes you joyful. You can’t help but cry when you think of the traumatic experience he suffered at the age of 11. You can’t help but be angry at how an adult and a mother could subject her own child to such a life-altering situation. But, you can’t help but be joyful about how an 11-year-old, traumatized kid could develop into such a wonderful, marvelous person!

This story is not about sports, it’s about life. We all have faced or will face our own traumatic situation(s) in our life. How we respond will determine the quality of our life.
There are not many people who I really want to meet in life, but Jimmy Graham is definitely one. I want to know how he went from failing grades, to a basketball scholarship to a very prominent university (with a double major in marketing and management), finished in four years, then enrolled in graduate school so he could play one year of football, and then to excel on the professional level in the sport. All this while overcoming the trauma of his youth.

Jimmy Graham, your life is truly a touchdown. Whether you know it or not, you have already won the Super Bowl of life!

Watch ESPN’s profile of Jimmy Graham below:

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine,  Freedom’s Journal Magazine and U.S. Africa Magazine.

  • Alfred Edmond, Jr.

    Wow. Okay, I’m officially a fan of Jimmy Graham. Not just as a football player, but as a person. May God continue to bless him to be a blessing to others.

  • Tommy

    count me as another Jimmy Graham fan..he won the battle within his life, and that makes him a hero to me! what a true blessing he is in these days of war and stife! he knows where he came from and can only be the rest of his life, an inspiration to others! God bless his mother and sister, who gave him love in a time where he could find it nowhere! March on TarHeel!

  • Renee

    I think I missed the memo where Michael Vick is someone to look up to now…? There’s a big difference between someone like Graham, whose hard times were through no fault of his own, and Vick, who created his own problems… Just saying. We live Graham in N.O.

  • Jennie

    What an inspiring story! He is truly a motivated man. A perfect example of positive thinking becoming a reality. Thank you for setting an amazing example for all of us!

  • Michael White

    Jimmy Graham is an inspiration but he’s from Goldsboro not Greensboro Nc

  • Another Inspired Mom

    I heard Jimmy’s story a few months ago while watching MY SAINTS play and stopped in my tracts to hear the announcer finish it. I was a fan of his for what I saw on the field already but this sealed it! It pulled at my heart strings to know that he had overcome so many obstacles in his short life! He reminded me of my son…his story was not as tragic as this but similiar. God Bless you Jimmy and you have many fans who admire you for more than what you can do with a football although YOU are not shabby in that department at all! What a forgiving youngman also…that birth mother should be asking for forgiveness and wondering how someone like her ever had a kid like this! AND Becky Vinson….hats off to you…what a special and loving person…the world needs more of you!!! From a Mom who knows how Becky Vinson must feel and is so glad she does….

  • Kanesha

    What does Mike Vick have to do with Jimmy Graham? He’s a criminal, don’t feel sorry for him. Graham is the man!

  • Jessica

    He is from GOLDSBORO! Not Greensboro. And also he kicks the pants off Michael Vick!

  • Laurenn

    I admire Jimmy Graham. I’m not a huge fan of football (I do watch though), but he is my favorite player. To come from a situation like his and still be able to forgive his mother and for him to be who his is today, it is truly remarkable. He is a fantastic football player and an even better person.

  • Lwville One

    He’s hot….lol

  • Roeshelle Robinson

    J Graham is a blessing to New Orleans , and the Saints . He tall and gorgeous, every woman can enjoy watching him. Keep up the good work.

  • Paul

    He’s from Goldsboro ! You can’t expect credibility if you can’t get details correct!!!

  • Tony

    How can you compare him to Michael Vick? Vick is a monster.

  • Melvin L. Thomas

    God. He is our Keeper, Healer, Teacher, Redeemer and Lefter. He’s Incredible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Tebow who?

    Jesus Breed,
    Mr. Melvin L. Thomas II

  • terry boyd

    What a wonderful story, I cried, What a good mom Becky is!! and yes I know she is not your biological son but u don’t have to be, to love such a good boy!!! hats off to your family, they should make a movie!!!I luv this story!!!

  • Mk

    Jimmy Graham I think you are soooo handsome!!!

  • Li

    Jimmy I love u u r the best

  • clkmills@sbchlobal.net

    What an amazing story. Jimmy Graham is an inspiration to all of us. His story is both humbling and motivational. Our children today could use more mentors like this young man and less time on the computer. Thanks Jimmy for sharing your story and mentoring our youth!!!

  • denisse

    i love Jimmy Graham.
    I’m glad he did not let his past bring him down. keep aiming for the stars Jimmy
    God Bless Jimmy

  • antionette bivins

    Hello Jimmy. I. Hope. That. One day. You. Will. Read some. Of our emails. My story is similar. To yours. The only difference. Is
    I am a female. 47 years old never new my mom.I was sexually. Abused my childhood. Never told anyone. But I want to give up on life can u help me.

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