January 25, 2022
"Changing Lives, Improving Communities"

Diamond in the Rough: Derrick Graham

Derrick Graham is a 2022 running back from University Lab in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The 6 ft. 205lb bruising athlete earned the nickname “Rodeo” by raising horses and giving free rides to would be tacklers on Friday nights for big gains, or across the goal line. Graham has an impressive 315lb clean, a 325lb bench, and a massive 500lb squat. Just another reason why Graham can keep his legs driving after initial contact and it usually takes two or three defenders to take down the massive running back.

Check out his film here.

When did you start playing football?

I started playing football in fifth grade, when I was about 10 years old. I started playing originally for the Southside Patriots. Then the next year, they combined the teams and I played for the Denham Springs Yellow Jackets.

Did you always play running back or did you play any other positions?

I played a little bit of quarterback in youth league, and safety and running back in middle school. When I got to high schools, I was still playing safety as a freshman. Then as a sophomore they changed me over to running back primarily.

Did you play any other sports growing up?

Besides baseball and running track, that’s about it. I played basketball too. I’m still running track, I run the 100, the 200, and the 4X200. I also do field events, I do the shotput.

What do you love about football?

I just love the game, I love how you study all week. How you can see what your opponent is doing, how they are trying to stop you. Then you come out on Friday night, everything you’ve practiced for, it shows on Friday night. Also, you get to go out there and hit people for fun.

Speaking of basically punching people in the mouth, you’re part of a 1-2 punch combo in that U-High backfield. What type of play style would you say describes you?

I feel like I’m an all-around back. I’m a downhill back, outside back, inside the tackles. I feel like I’m an all-around back really.

Going back to last year with COVID and everything, what were your goals last year?

Get in better shape, come back better than I was the previous season. Coming out of COVID it was really hard because we didn’t have our workouts. So I had to do a lot of stuff on my own. I was training with my dad and doing a lot of stuff with him.

We talked after the game about your horses, how many horses do you have?

Two right now. I’ve been around horse all my life. I started doing rodeos when I was about 10. I didn’t think I wanted to play football at all because I was riding horses. Playing football didn’t come until the last minute because I was always interested in the rodeo, and riding my horses. That’s a big thing with me. Riding my horses is a stress reliever. Football is something I feel like I can have fun with. I actually got the nickname “Rodeo” from my youth club coach, Coach Dan.

Who would you say some of your biggest influences are?

My dad, I would say my uncle Bo. My trainer that moved to Mississippi, I talk to him a lot. He helps me a lot with things like how to post things.

Do you believe attitude is a factor in winning?

It’s a big factor. If you don’t have an attitude going into the game, you’re basically just doing it. If you don’t have any hunger, no push about what you’re doing, then why are you doing it? You’re doing it for no reason basically.

What do you think is a strength in your game play?

I have good vision, I can block really well. I can catch the ball out of the backfield. With the offense we run, a lot of people don’t get to see it that much, unless they see me working out.

Coming into this season, what personal goals have you set for yourself?

To end the year with 2000 all-purpose yards, and make it to state. Have my name out there a little bit more.

You know U-High has put out some pretty good backs in recent years.

Oh yeah, Mike (Hollins), I talk to him a lot. I talked to him earlier today. We’re always talking.                     

On a scale of 1-10 what is your ideal game day performance number?

I would say about an eight. There’s always stuff I can improve on each game that I play. So I would say an eight. I just have to get enough opportunities to play back there, because you know we have the shared backfield.

What is your favorite play to run in that two back system?

I would say lead. I can actually see everybody coming over. It can either be a cutback or I can go around the corner. With the lead I can build up my momentum. With my momentum I can either crush somebody or hit the hole really hard.

So at the end of this year, what would you want your teammates and coaches to say about you? That he was a real hard working person, and he did everything he could for the team. He did all the little extra things, and paid attention to help out the team. And he helped the team win state.