It happens every year in the NFL Draft. A player from a school you more than likely haven’t even heard comes out of nowhere to make an impact at the next level. We like to call these guys “small school studs”. I was presented with the opportunity to interview South Dakota’s safety/linebacker hybrid, Tyson Graham who hopes to be drafted this Spring.
With the evolution of the safety/linebacker hybrid in the NFL over recent years, that opens up the door even further for a player like Tyson Graham as he fits that mold perfectly. Graham displayed his versatility all over the football field during his time at South Dakota as he racked up production back in coverage and up in the box. This past season he accumulated 5 tackles for loss with 3 sacks and made it emphatical to get into the backfield. He also ended his career with 5 interceptions and was a menace breaking up passes. Not to mention, Graham was the team’s leading tackler in 2014.
You always like to root for players who don’t get as much exposure as the big school guys. As eluded to earlier, Graham is your prototypical box safety who can be sprinkled into a defensive gameplan at linebacker. His work ethic and passion for the game will be sure to attract teams whether he ends up being a late round draft pick, or priority free agent.
Follow Tyson Graham’s journey to the NFL on Twitter @TGraham_JR.
Q: What is your current height/weight?
A: Current height/weight: 6’2/214
Q: Talk to me about your recruitment. What made you decide to commit to South Dakota and were you strictly recruited as a safety?
A: The reason I decided to commit to SD was because they gave me a chance to continue to live out my dreams of playing Division 1 football as well [as]obtaining a degree. Had a few schools who were also interested, but SD presented an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
I originally came in as a wide receiver and made the transition over after my redshirt year, and was a starter at safety since then.
Q: What was your most memorable moment playing college football?
A: My most memorable moment playing college football was, playing Oregon back in 2014. Just the atmosphere of that game was crazy. Was a great opportunity for me to display my abilities on a big stage, and I definitely ended up doing so.
Q: The current defensive trend in the NFL is the evolution of safety/linebacker hybrids. Do you think our skillset fits that role and how would you embrace it if that’s what you’re asked to do at the next level?
A: I do think my skillsets fits the new mold of the Hybrid position in the NFL. Especially with my versatility and athleticism I think I would be able to adjust to that role just fine and still have an impact. With me playing SAM linebacker and strong safety my last year, that also helped a lot. But if I were asked to do so at the next level, I wouldn’t have any hesitation to do so.
Q: What would you say is your biggest strength about your game? What is a weakness you want to improve on?
A: My biggest strengths would have to be my athleticism and versatility of being able to play in multiple positions all over the field. Whether at corner, safety, linebacker or whatever. Also my physicality, and ability to tackle in the open field.
I feel as though I can always polish up some coverage skills.
Q: Is there a specific NFL player out there whom you model your game after?
A: Kam Chancellor is a player I model my game after. Just the way he plays the game with relentlessness and the passion he brings is just crazy.
Q: There are still about 3 months until the NFL Draft. What will you do from now until then to prepare?
A: With 3 months left until the draft, I’ll continue working on my speed, all of the position drills with my coach Ray Buchanan Jr. and just continue to get stronger in the weight room.
Q: Is there an NFL team(s) you would prefer to play on if given the chance?
A: I’m open to play on ANY team that gives me the opportunity to come in and help their organization. I’ll take the opportunity and run with it.