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Graham strives to be team leader

By Adam Troxtell
On September 23, 2010

Junior running back Marcus Graham has been in love with the game of football from the moment he first picked up a ball and ran with it. His passion has helped him grow into an important role in the Lions team: one of leadership.

"I was born in San Antonio and moved to Round Rock after that," Graham said. "I know most people think it's a small town, but it's really a city-oriented kind of town. It's 15 minutes away from Austin, we get a lot of their traffic, so it's pretty big."

Graham has played football since the age of six, and he said he was always drawn to the position of running back.

"I've always been a running back, since Pop Warner, through middle school to high school, I just always stuck with it," he said. "I've played some defensive positions, but my number one position on the field was always running back."

Graham said he enjoys the sense of control on the field that, that particular position offers.

"For me, it's just the excitement of being able to touch the ball, being able to make something happen with the ball in my hands," he said. "Defense is always cool, quarterback is always cool, but for me, it's just being able to touch the ball."

Football was not his only sport, but Graham said once the time came to narrow down his selection, it was an obvious choice.

"I played football, baseball, basketball, soccer all through my youth," he said. "When I got to high school, I kind of figured I needed to focus on one. Baseball, the pitches started getting too fast for me, so I just kind of turned my direction toward football and stuck with that, and I feel it's been going pretty well for me."

As a senior at Stoney Point High School, Graham received a second-team all-district selection, team MVP award and Outstanding Back Award.

"As a team, we kind of struggled," he said. "We were a rebuilding team. My sophomore year, we lost our head coach and then we got another one my junior year. He had to rebuild the team and kind of see who was who. My senior year, we ended up 3-7, one game away from going to playoffs. Actually, right now, they are a powerhouse. We were the foundation of the team, and they're doing well right now."

Much like other young players, there were professional players whom Graham looked to for inspiration. He said in high school it was Adrian Peterson, but before then he liked to watch a less conventional running back.

"When I was little, I used to always watch Jerome Bettis and the Steelers, that's my favorite team," Graham said. "I just liked the big bruiser back. I'm more of a shifty back, but just seeing him not really care about who's lining up against him, I liked watching that."

As he progressed through high school, Graham said he never really had a "mentor" in the actual game. However, he did receive plenty of support from those around him, especially his family, which provided him with motivation.

"My brother played football before me, and I always wanted to go out there and do it myself," he said. "I wouldn't say I had a mentor per say, but my parents have always been there supporting me, telling me I could be whatever I wanted to. If I had to say I had a mentor, I'd have to say my mom and dad just always being there, always backing me up all the way through."

Graham said he first heard of and came to Commerce when he was brought here on a summer trip while attending a local football camp. One of the camp officials was coached by former A&M-Commerce head coach Scotty Conely. He said he liked the small-town atmosphere Commerce offered, especially coming from a big-city area.

"It's a small town, but it's kind of what I wanted and what I needed," he said. "Being from Austin, I know there's so much to do that you just want to do anything and everything, which can lead you to trouble. Being in a small town, there's only so much to do, and after you do it, you get comfortable with just doing everything every day. I love that."

After being redshirted his freshman year, he played special teams in 2008, averaging 25.9 yards per kick return. Last season was his first big rushing year, as he received 677 yards on the ground off of 184 carries and scored seven touchdowns. Graham's performances were enough to earn him first-team all-Lone Star Conference North Division running back.

"That was a huge boost," Graham said regarding the award. "We had a tough season last year, and to come off with that recognition was a great accomplishment. Not only for me, but for my team and my offensive-line, because I know I couldn't do anything by myself."

That was the first year Graham spent under current head coach Guy Morriss. Graham said while he was worried initially when he experienced yet another coaching change, he quickly saw it would be a long-term benefit.

"He always gets on us about being on the field, it's no problem if you get beat physically," Graham said, "but it's the mental part that we have to focus ourselves on. If you're beat mentally, then you're beating yourself, and that's what we don't need."

Morriss said it was easy to tell why Graham was such a good football player and valued member of the team.

"If you spend five minutes with Marcus Graham, you know he's going to be a good football player, just because of the character that he has," Morriss said. "He understands the meaning of true leadership that he is there to serve, basically, and I think some of our players get a little confused on what it means to be a leader or what leadership means. He puts the team first, and he is a person that cares about the people around him. He gets it, he understands how to lead."

Graham is majoring in construction science, which he said involves a lot of engineering and math. He hopes to be a project manager someday.

"I just had my internship this past summer and got to experience being a project manager, doing some of the things around there," he said. "Basically, that's what it entails, just managing a project, managing blue prints, going over all of the measurements and things like that."

As for the season, Graham said he had a goal for himself beyond rushing stats.

"Aside from being a 1000-yard rusher, which I assume every back wants to be, I really just want to leave Commerce knowing that I was the one my team could count on," he said. "I was the one who always could push my team to do better. I was always the one who was just the leader on my team, basically. My personal goal this year is just to be that guy, to be that leader, that one that everybody can count on."

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