Overview: Tyson Graham Jr. is a red-shirt senior from University of South Dakota who plays free safety and has also played wide receiver. In 2014, he led the team in tackles with 97 stops. In 2015, he was one of the players who was awarded First-Team All-MVFC Honors. He also had the second highest amount of tackles on his team with 71 tackles and had 41 solo stops. He is a good athlete, who is a great run stopper and has good ball skills.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Tyson, during which time he told me more about his background, his personality and his overall love for football.
Christa: For the people who do not know your story, how did you wind up choosing University of South Dakota?
TG: Coming out of high school I didn’t have as many offers. My recruiting process started up pretty late. Around early January, USD came in contact in with me after viewing my film and began to show much interest. Coach Copeland (now at the University of Northern Illinois) saw something in me, and offered me a full scholarship to attend the University of South Dakota as a WR (I would later transition over to defense after my redshirt year). At first, I honestly didn’t even know USD existed, but after doing some research and taking my visit, I felt as though USD was the best place for me to have a prosperous future both off and on the field.
C: How do you plan on making yourself stand out and noticed by NFL scouts?
TG: I plan on making myself standout by just continuing to make plays and become more and more consistent. That’s definitely something the scouts look for, consistency. They want to see if you’re production level rises each year. I feel as though that’s something that I’ve done over the past few seasons. Also my versatility, being to able to play different positions whether it’s LB or SS or perhaps maybe even the nickel position. Most of that comes because of my length and football intelligence. My physicality will also be something that’ll catch the eye of a scout.
C: What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?
TG: Strengths: Very physical, Great run defender – I can come up and fill a hole and diagnose plays quickly by great run/pass reads. I can hit with power and bring some pop at point of contact. I have athleticism and also open field tackling, which being a safety, you’re the last line of defense. So once something hits the open field or past the second level, it’s all up to you to make the play. I also have good ball skills as well. My versatility is also key as well by being able to play multiple positions.
Weaknesses: I am working towards becoming a better student of the game. I feel as though you can never know enough. So this summer I am putting a focus on that by watching more film.
C: What separates you from the other players at your position?
TG: My open field tackling, physicality, toughness, durability, and football awareness.
C: Which current or former NFL player do you think you resemble and why?
TG: Current football player I would have to say Kam Chancellor. His physicality is just on a completely different level. He plays with a lot of passion and you can tell he loves contact. I love contact as well, I love making the big hits, taking on WR’s and getting off the blocks. You have to love that as a Safety.
C: Who is the toughest player you’ve ever faced in your college career?
TG: David Johnson. As you can see now, his success is starting to translate over into the NFL. Won’t be long before he’s a household name. And got to mention Marcus Mariota, there was a reason why he was the #2 overall pick.
C: When did you first fall in love with playing football?
TG: First fell in love with the game at the age of 6 years. Parents always had me in football year around starting with playing pop warner football at the age of 7.
C: How do you prepare for game day? Do you have any game day rituals?
TG: Usually I kind of just walk on the field and envision myself making plays. I try not to get overly hyped before a game, I want to go out comfortable knowing my assignments. On just about every game day, I’m listening to Nipsey Hussle & Ice Berg. Nipsey just has the chill music, that will get your mind right. Then I’ll maybe head back on the field and start doing some footwork and throwing the ball around. And most importantly, before every game I drop down and say a prayer and Thank God for allowing me to play this great game.
C: What is the most inspirational or powerful thing a coach has ever said to you in your college career?
TG: The most powerful thing would probably have to be, “Don’t take this game for granted, because it can be taken away from you at any point”. Ever since I heard that I try to play every down like it’s my last. Just have fun with the game.
C: As you prepare for the 2017 Draft, what are your goals for your final year of college?
TG: As I prepare for my final year, my goals are to win the conference championship, and then win the national championship. As far as individual accolades, EARN DPOY in the Missouri Valley Conference. And become a 1st team All-American, receive an invite to the NFL combine.
Locker Room Update would like to thank Tyson Graham Jr. for taking the time to speak with us. We wish him the best of luck as he continues his journey as an NFL 2017 draft prospect.
You can check out his highlights here
Follow him on Twitter: @BeGreat_8