ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Brandon Graham was never one for excuses.
So when he forgot his football spikes with his mother during the testing phase of Saturday's NIKE Training Camp at the University of Michigan, he didn't complain about his 40-yard dash time or shuttle results. Instead, he simply said he could have done better.
Yet, it's hard to imagine much else he could improve on as Graham, the talented linebacker from Detroit Crockett, was one of the more impressive players at the camp.
"I really came out here to show people that I have good work ethic," Graham, who is 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds. "I heard a lot of doubters say he's not as good as he says he is. I wanted to prove them wrong."
"Yeah, today I did," Graham said with a smile.
Graham, despite not wearing football shoes, did test well at the camp, running a 40-yard dash in the 4.6-second range and also putting up around 28 repetitions in the bench-press. It was also in drills and then in one-on-ones where he excelled.
NIKE linebacker coach Chris Gizzie, an NFL veteran that played for the Green Bay Packers, had a great chance to work with some of the nation's best linebackers the past few weeks, including Marcus Ball and Allen Bradford. Gizzie said Graham is right up there in that same league.
"He's got very exceptional speed for a man that size," Gizzie said. "That is what is so startling about him – how well he runs for a guy that thick and heavy. At first you almost don't think a guy that big can do things like that. But the guy can recover, he understands the game and he did a lot of things well in all the drills that we have, and that was impressive.
"He was very well rounded, and he's got a burst of speed that is surprising for a man that large."
Graham said that extra burst of speed allows him to be a head-hunter on the field.
"It's kind of weird because when I step on the field, I just automatically turn it on and become a different person," Graham said. "When I'm off the field, I'm mild, quiet, but when I'm on it, like I am now, I'm just happy. I'm ready to go. I just leave everything that I have on the field, and if that means going out there and killing people, I'll do it."
Motivation to be the best comes from a number of different sources, but the biggest is his family, which has raised him right and kept him focused on the little things to become a success on the field and especially off of it.
"They're always making sure I'm in the house on time," Graham said about his mom and dad. "When I need something for football or school they have it for me. They give me all my transportation. They're everything to me and are a big part of my life."
And they will continue to be when Graham heads to Michigan after he graduates high school.
"I've always been a Michigan fan, and I always came up here for everything," he said. "I just liked the environment. I felt like I could live here and live my life real good here. I know I could also get a good education in computer engineering.
"There are others schools that come up to the high school and call me, but it doesn't matter. I'm interested in everybody, and I still want to take my visits but Michigan just always caught my eye."
Just like he did this past Saturday, but he wasn't the only player that caught the eye of scouts and the more than 100 college coaches in attendance. Here is a position by position breakdown of the better players at the camp.
With an EA Sports Elite 11 Regional workout held the night before, this ended up being one of the deeper quarterback pools of the NIKE Camp Tour so far. With elite quarterbacks from all over the nation in attendance there were plenty of opportunities to impress and a few guys off the national recruiting radar did just that.
One of the biggest surprises of the day was the performance of Shoreview (Minn.) Mounds View quarterback Adam Weber. Coming into the camp, he only had one scholarship offer and wasn't as highly regarded as some of the others at the camp like Josh Freeman of Grandview, Mo., or Isiah Williams of Chicago Vocational.
Still Weber, who also impressed the night before at the EA Sports Elite 11 Regional Workout, spun the ball really well, showed very good fundamentals and displayed very good arms strength.
"There were a lot of quarterbacks here with a couple of offers, but I think Adam really impressed," Brian Stumpf, the director of player personnel for Student Sports, said.
"In terms of arm strength, he's got that already and you can project that to the next level. He's the type of guy that can throw it in that narrow window, and he has that little something on it. But he's also a hard worker, and since he plays in a Wing-T in high school it doesn't get to show off his skills as much as it should."
Williams also blew the socks off of coaches.
"In terms of tools, Isiah Williams has got a lot of upside," Stumpf said. "He's very, very raw and he doesn't know a ton about the fundamentals at the position. But he's a good athlete, he's got a huge arm and he spins it well. He does have a natural-throwing ability and people are going to love working with him."
Freeman had his moments in camp, and he tested off the charts for a big guy, running in the 4.7-second range. Freeman admitted after a long week that also included travel to Michigan from Kansas City that he was little worn out after the event, but it still didn't stop him from looking like he has the potential to be something special on the next level.
Justin Burke of Lexington (Ky.) Catholic, Will Fidler of Henderson (Ky.) Henderson County and Justin Siller of Detroit St. Martin DePorres also looked good at times. Siller is a junior-to-be, so keep an eye out on him in the class of 2007. Rudy Kirbus of Cleveland St. Ignatius had his moments, too, and with a strong senior season could develop into a solid college quarterback. Eric Heckaman of South Bend (Ind.) Adams also had his moments and received some special attention from quarterback coach Bob Johnson.
Running backs featured several impressive looking kids, but a few new names really seemed to push their names forward as potential high-level Division I recruiting.
Cameron Mobley of Dayton (Ohio) Trotwood-Madision was smallish, appearing to be in the 5-foot-7 range, but he couldn't be covered in one-on-one drills. The coaches kept pulling him back toward the front of the line so he could be challenged, but he wasn't.
Jacob Ramsey also impressed throughout the camp, and numerous college coaches were seen writing his name down as one of the best players in the camp. The 6-foot, 200-pounder from Columbus Independence tested extremely well running in the 4.6-second range and a vertical leap of over 34 inches. He also excelled in drills and was one of the few players that gave the linebackers fits in one-on-one drills.
Robert Hughes, a junior-to-be from Chicago Hubbard, is one of the better players in Chicago for the class of 2007 and he showed why on Saturday. While he still needs to improve on his overall quickness, Hughes proved in drills that he's good enough to be a solid fullback prospect in next year's class.
Wide receivers/tight ends
The receiver and tight end group was not one of the strongest at the camp, but a few names did prove they have the tools to play Division I football.
Even though he have great testing marks, Quintin Patilla of Flint (Mich.) Carman-Ainsworth was extremely effective in drills and during one-on-ones. His long arms and great frame almost made him look like an outside linebacker candidate, but he did show some good ball skills throughout the day. Jerel Leak of Trotwood (Ohio) Madison also impressed coaches in drills with his quickness and frame that looked to be in the 6-foot, 185-pound range.
Marques Wilkins of Decatur (Ill.) MacArthur, D.D. Hardy of New Haven, Mich., and Adrian Cannon of Auburn Hills Avondale were a few others that looked good.
A few new names also popped up with solid days at the tight end spot. Adrien Robinson, a tight end, receiver showed up late and didn't have his name on the jersey but he tested well and looked the part of a future flex tight end prospect. Anthony Daniels of Detroit McKenzie passed the eyeball test and looked to be a solid blocking tight end prospect.
The offensive line was the Justin Boren show.
Boren of Pickerington (Ohio) North put up incredible testing numbers, including a very solid 40-yard dash time of around 5.2 seconds and 40 repetitions in the bench press. He was also especially nasty in one-on-one drills, prompting one college coach on-looking to claim he was the best offensive linemen he'd seen this spring.
"He's a mean son-of-a-gun," the coach said. "He's the total package."
Jeff Maddux of Monroe, Mich., and Ramone Johnson of Chicago Morgan Park also received high marks from the NIKE position coaches for their hard work throughout the day. Garrett Whaley of Pinconning, Mich., Jake Vermiglio of Rochester (Mich.) Stoney Creek, Bryant Nowicki of Bay City (Mich.) John Glenn and Cody Faulkner of Cicero (Ind.) Hamilton Heights were others that stood out.
The defensive line didn't display too many major prospects, the position coaches said. A few names that did look good at times included Aundre Henderson of Louisville (Ky.) DuPont Manual, Chris Arthurs of Wheaton (Ill.) South, Nick Tavernelli of Medina (Ohio) Buckeye, and Dexter Larimore of Merrillville, Ind.,
Along with Graham at the linebacker spot, coaches came away impressed with Eric Gordon of West Traverse City, Mich., and Kevin Green of North Chicago. Gordon had a great frame to fill into, and his testing marks – including around a 4.5-second time in the 40-yard dash – were impressive. Green had around a 30-inch vertical and flowed well in drills.
But it wouldn't be the NIKE Camp if a new name didn't emerge. Andre Hatchett of Indianapolis Warren Central earned raving reviews from the position coaches and they loved his hard-hitting and cat-like quickness to the football. He's got two offers on the table now, but he soon might change that after a very good day on Saturday.
"There's a lot to like about Andre," Gizzie said. "He's not the tallest guy around, but he makes a lot of plays and is always around the ball. I think we'd probably rank him as the best in the group right up there with Brandon. They both are special players."
Hatchett said he was pleased with his day.
"I came out and competed," he said. "I might not have been as well known as some of the other guys at the spot – especially that guy from Michigan – but I think I showed I'm at the same level as he is. I'm proud of what I accomplished."
Andrew Trowbridge of Port Orange (Fla.) Warner Christian established a new high for the year in the SPARQ rating with a mark of 101.81. His day included a shuttle time of around 4.0 seconds and amazing marks in the 40-yard dash, bench-press and vertical. He also looked good in drills and should be one to watch the next few weeks.
Indiana was also home to one of the top defensive backs at the camp – Steve Brown of Columbus East. Not only did Brown run a 40-yard dash in the sub-4.4-second range, he also impressed during drills and then in one-on-one competition.
"Steve Brown was one of the most impressive guys at the camp, no question," Stumpf said. "He was so fast that it's amazing."
Brown said he was pleased with his day, but felt he could have done a little better.
"I wanted to prove I could compete with anyone, and I think I did," Brown said. "Still, you have to always wonder if there is something that you could have done a little better out there."
Not bad for a guy that spent a lot of time on the offensive side of the ball as a junior. After the camp, Brown picked up offers from both Michigan and Notre Dame, which further proves his stock is about to get red hot.
"He's going to explode on the national scene really quickly all because of his performance at NIKE," one college coach said after the camp. "This kid is good enough to play for anybody in the country."
Robert Vaughn of North Attelboro, Mass., said he's still waiting for his first scholarship offer, but the past five days were good for him. He was one of the more dominating players at the Elite Combine in New Jersey and then he continued that dominance at NIKE on Saturday. His testing marks were extremely solid and his coverage skill was even better.
There were a few underclassmen that also impressed at the defensive back spot.
Ronald Johnson of Muskegon, Mich., had a great shuttle time in the 4.0-second range and he did extremely well in the one-on-ones. Taurian Washingon of Detroit DePorres also looked like he'll be ready to be a high-level recruit next season.
Sergio Brown of Maywood (Ill.) Proviso East was another that improved his stock with a solid day of testing and good work in the drills. Detroit Jesuit defensive back Ian Conyers ran the camp's fastest 40-yard dash when he was tested in the 4.3-second range. He finished second in the camp with a SPARQ score just above 98. He also looked to have the frame and the body to be a solid Division I player. Some people might have overlooked him because Jesuit never has any players, but with Conyers it does now.