Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Graham steps in, up for Badgers

[media-credit name=’JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]FB-vs-WSU-No89-JS[/media-credit]In a case of "the next guy coming in," last Saturday's version didn't seem much different: A relatively unknown position player came in and found instant success on the field.

Redshirt sophomore Garrett Graham got the nod from head coach Bret Bielema prior to Wisconsin's season opener against Washington State to start at the other tight end position, a spot normally reserved for senior Andy Crooks. But with Crooks held out to nurse a hamstring injury, Graham got his first big break.

Needless to say, he made an immediate impact.


"Now this is the classic example of 'the next guy in,'" Bielema said. "I don't like having to do it this early in the season, but Garrett Graham is — as you guys have seen in practice in the fall camp — a tremendous football player. He came up big today and we didn't have much of a letdown there."

"I think that's real in our program," senior quarterback Tyler Donovan added. "Guys who can take advantage of their opportunity and Garrett did a great job today."

On third-and-goal from the 11, UW quarterback Tyler Donovan spotted an open receiver across the middle and hit him for the touchdown and a 21-14 lead.

That receiver was Graham. The young man from Brick, N.J., was bubbling inside over his first career catch and his first career touchdown, unable to logically contrive his emotions into words other than acknowledging that "it couldn't have played out any better way," scoring a touchdown and giving the Badgers the lead for good 21-14.

While Graham experienced personal gratification on multiple levels from that play, there was no on-field celebration. No fireworks. No curtain call.

Graham can do without the special attention, however. He understands the object of the sport is to earn playing time any way he can and to perform well when given that chance.

In high school he was called upon to play tight end, defensive end as well as punter and kicker.

"I'm just trying to fill the role that was needed," Graham said. "Crooks had some injury problems so I just tried to step in and fill that role."

He finished the game with 3 receptions for 38 yards and the touchdown.

There was never a question whether Graham had talent, entering Wisconsin as one of the top 35 players at his position, according to, it was just a matter of when he could show it.

Two tight ends who ended up being drafted in the NFL — Owen Daniels and Jason Pociask — got all the repetitions, persuading Graham to take a redshirt during his first year. Then the repetitions were given to converted defensive players Andy Crooks and Travis Beckum in 2006, preventing Graham from exhibiting just how effective he could be. He appeared in a mere three games.

He may not have gotten enough repetitions again this year had it not been for a series of stingers and minor injuries to Beckum.

If not for those injuries, Graham would have been unable to give the coaching staff a good idea of just how integral he could be in the Badger offense.

"We had a couple injuries, lost a few guys here and there, but what it did allow I pointed out guys like Garrett Graham who was able to step up when Travis (Beckum) went down," Bielema said at the conclusion of fall camp. "Part of the reason we have camp and fall practice is to find out where our strengths and weaknesses are that we didn't in the spring."

As he continues to develop, Graham looks to the player before him for guidance.

"Travis has definitely helped me watching him run routes and how the defense reacts to him," Graham said. "I just try to do that myself and try to get open like he does."

In return, the junior Beckum exchanges praises for perhaps his replacement further down the road.

"I think it's great I knew Garrett had it in him," Beckum said. "It's just that opportunity that he had (Saturday), and he took advantage of it. I'm proud of him.

"He really stepped it up another level and made a statement."

Once Crooks comes back, which should be soon, Graham will likely return to his spot as a backup to Beckum. While the present is uncertain, his future is certainly full of promise.

Who knows, maybe someone else will get hurt later in the year, leaving Graham as "the next guy in" once more.

Whatever the case may be, Graham will be ready.

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