Running backs come and go in the NFL, frequently flaming out after just a few seasons. Earnest Graham was able to have a nine-year career and provide some great moments during his time on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Earnest Graham at Florida
Earnest Graham joined the University of Florida Gators after an incredibly successful career at Mariner High School in Naples. After four years on the varsity team, he became Lee County’s all-time leading rusher with 5,710 yards.
The NFL became a realistic possibility for him after his senior year, during which Graham rushed for 1,085 yards. However, he would have to enter the league as an undrafted free agent.
The Bucs came calling and signed Graham for the 2003 season.
Earnest Graham on the Bucs
Though Graham was on the team in 2003, he did not emerge from Jon Gruden’s practice squad until the 2004 season. For his first three years on the field, he predominantly worked as a fullback or special teams blocker, but he would get his chance to shine in 2007 when starting running back Cadillac Williams and backup Michael Pittman went down with injuries.
Graham certainly succeeded. He scored 10 touchdowns during the regular season and even reached the end zone during a playoff game that year. He had a sizeable role on the 2008 squad as well and became the lead back following an injury to LeGarrette Blount in 2011.
For the most part, Graham was a serviceable football player who was called upon when needed most. His last season was in 2011. His career ended following a severe ankle injury that also included some Achilles tendon damage.
Earnest Graham Now
Graham entered a new phase of his career in 2013 when he was named the coach of North Fort Myers High School. The Red Knights turned into a formidable football team under Graham’s leadership, clinching regular-season titles and reaching several regional semifinals.
The Sentinels are not exactly shooting up the rankings, but to Graham, winning football games is secondary to mentoring his team. The COVID-19 pandemic has been scary for everyone, but it helps to have a leader like Graham that has his team’s best interests at heart.
Earnest Graham was able to use his NCAA and NFL experiences to become a great coach at the high school level. He just missed the Bucs’ Super Bowl run, so his best chance at winning a championship might be from the sidelines.