Life has been all about overcoming transitions for New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.
Graham was left by his family and placed in foster care in North Carolina at the age of 14 only to be adopted later by a single mother. He received a basketball scholarship at the University of Miami and only played one season of football for the Hurricanes.
Yet, the Saints selected Graham, who is 6 feet—6 inches, 250 pounds, with the 95th pick in 2010 draft. He has emerged as one of the top tight ends in the National Football League this season.
Where Y'at sat down with Graham at Chef John Besh's Luke Restaurant.
WhereY'At: What's the best thing an opposing fan has ever said to you that's printable?
Graham: Nothing. Some of the people just don't like me, man.
WYAT: Was (former Saints tight end Jeremy) Shockey aiming those hand gestures at you during the Carolina game?
Graham: (smiling and laughing) No, no, no. No way. He wouldn't do that. That's my brother.
WYAT: What's it like to run onto the Superdome floor for a game with all of those fans here?
Graham: It's the biggest rush I've ever had. Our fans don't realize their importance in our game. We call them the 12th man. We have such an advantage by playing here in the dome, because our fans are so into it. They are so lively. I mean, literally, the sound is deafening. I don't think people realize how important that chant is at the beginning of the game. When someone goes down and the captain drops his fist and everyone screams that chant. I mean, literally, that strikes fear into the opponent. They know that when you have 75,000 people screaming that and chanting that right before the kickoff, it lets the opponent know that we're going to be here for four quarters, and that's going to be a battle.
WYAT: What's the biggest difference between New Orleans and Miami that you've noticed?
Graham: I would say the fans' dedication. Miami, they have their baseball, their basketball, their football, their college football. The people there, they go to whatever is hot. Whoever is winning, they are going to go to their games. In Louisiana, here, I feel like our fans - it's such a culture here. It's almost like…people here they literally breathe Saints football.
WYAT: Food, obviously, is a big deal here. It's late at night and you're hungry, what do you eat if you're in a pinch?
Graham: I'm going to call Rock-n-Sake. Hey, I'm going to get sushi. I probably get takeout from that place more than anybody ever. Actually, whenever I place my order they already know what sauces to put on the side and all.
WYAT: Where's the weirdest place you ever signed an autograph? Outside, in a bar, whatever?
Graham: Pretty much everywhere. I guess probably at The White House, signing autographs there for security guards was pretty cool. I was a gumbo taste tester at the FBI facility, and that was pretty neat.
WYAT: What's your best Drew Brees story?
Graham: I've got so many.
WYAT: That no one has heard of.
Graham: So, I remember right after my first practice. Practice was over. It was hot. I'm tired. I'm exhausted, and I'm walking off the field. We've been out there three hours. I probably lost 10 pounds of sweat, and all of a sudden somebody is screaming my name. They are screaming my name. And it was Drew Brees. He said, "You ain't going nowhere." So, he makes me run back, and we're out there for another 15 to 20 minutes, and it's been like that every day since then. With me, he wants to get everything right with me and make sure I know what he needs.
WYAT: You don't know me. We've never met until now, but I want you to answer these questions like you think I would answer them. Pick one. You've got to answer it the way I would answer it.
Here Goes: The Miami Dolphins or the Miami Heat, which one would I choose?
Graham: The Miami Heat.
WYAT: I am a Miami Dolphins fan. Archie Manning or Drew Brees?
Graham: Drew Brees.
WYAT: Yeah, you've got to go with Drew Brees. Grass or artificial turf?
WYAT: Yeah, grass. Coke or Pepsi?
WYAT: Yep. "Help Me Rhonda" or Rhonda Flot Huff?
Graham: What? What is that?
WYAT: "Help Me Rhonda" the song or Rhonda Flot Huff? Trust me. You've got to pick a song or someone named Rhonda Flot Huff.
Graham: Rhonda Flot Huff?
WYAT: Yeah, that's my wife.