Brandon Graham on Sunday afternoon will set a franchise record for regular season games played in an Eagles uniform.
The guy who was once called a bust has outlasted everyone. And he’s become an absolute Philly legend in the process.
“It means a lot,” Graham said this week. “Especially now that it’s here. Didn’t see this coming other than you wanted to play this long, but being with the same team, a part of this organization, it’s been nothing but fun these last eight years I’d say. The beginning was a little rough. But it’s been getting better and better every year.
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“For me to do this, I just want to thank the guys in front of me that’s paved the way. I just want to keep the torch burning and do the same thing for the young guys that’s coming. Just let them know keep it going.”
Sunday’s game against the Bills will be Graham’s 189th regular season game in an Eagles uniform. He’ll pass David Akers on the all-time list.
Brandon Graham (2010-): 188
David Akers (1999-2010): 188
Jason Kelce (2011-): 186
Brian Dawkins (1996-2008): 183
Fletcher Cox (2012-): 182
By the end of 2023, the top three on this all-time list should be Graham, Kelce and Cox.
Graham, 35, was a first-round pick out of Michigan back in 2010 and for the first few years of his career he couldn’t escape comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul or Earl Thomas. A bit of a late-bloomer, Graham didn’t become a full-time starter until 2015 and didn’t become a Pro Bowler until 2020.
Of course, Graham is responsible for one of the biggest plays in franchise history. His strip-sack on Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII is an all-timer and earned him legendary status in Philly.
The longest-tenured athlete in the city has been an extremely productive player in his career but he’s meant more than that to the franchise. He’s also the guy with the wide smile and the signature laugh that has uplifted his teammates for 14 seasons.
“Man, he's a special player, special leader, special person,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “And so just to be able to step into an organization — again, and I always feel like I group all those guys together with those four guys that have been 10-year plus Eagles. That's a unique situation, and it's really helped my job as a head coach. Made it a lot more simple — not simple; I don't think that's the right way to say it.
“But just helped me out in my transition from becoming an offensive coordinator to a head coach because of the leader that he is. To have leaders like that. He's awesome. He's unbelievable.”
Sirianni on Friday told a story from the summer. He was at the same shore town as Graham and the two were at the pool with their respective families. That’s when Graham asked to borrow a ball from Sirianni to have a catch with his kid. Sirianni said the next time he turned around, Graham was having a catch with every one in the pool.
It might sound like something simple but that’s who Graham is. He’s the type of person who lifts up everyone around him and makes everyone he meets feel like the most important person in the room.
Graham takes his role as a positive force in the franchise seriously. Even when he might not feel like he has a ton of energy, he never lets it show. He’s the guy who always has a contagious smile on his face.
While Graham has always said his goal was to play 15 seasons, he’s made it to 14 to tie Chuck Bednarik for the most in Eagles history. And in the process he’s become the longest-tenured professional athlete in Philadelphia.
There’s no doubt he’s left his mark in the city’s sports history.
What does Graham want his legacy to be?
“I just want people to talk about how hard I played on the field and I was (as) selfless as possibly as I could,” Graham said. “Because we all got our goals that we want to do but I feel like the team goals and the personal goals go hand-in-hand if you have the balance of not compromising the team goals for your personal. Usually when you don’t do that, you hit some of your personal goals anyway. But it’s the way you go about it. I think I would want people to say, ‘he went about it the right way.’
“And of course if people know me or people meet me, I’m going to try to be the best dude I can be. That’s something that always… you can’t please everybody but I know that, me, I’m going to try to be the best me every day and not let stuff that tries to control you control me.”