Is the next Antonio Gates here at the Senior Bowl?

MOBILE, Ala. — One advantage football provides over other sports is that it incorporates many skills that can be attained by participating in other athletic endeavors.

It is rare that players in sports such as tennis, basketball or even baseball enter the sport at an advanced age with minimal experience. In football, however, there is a better possibility of excelling, despite a limited background in the sport.

Jimmy Graham is pursuing an NFL career after playing basketball and football for Miami. (Ben Liebenberg /

Patriots standout guard Stephen Neal and Chargers Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates did not play college football (they did play in high school), while other players such as the Texans’ Chester Pitts did not start playing the game until college.

Using Gates as an inspiration, University of Miami tight end Jimmy Graham is trying to become the next NFL player to make the transition from basketball to football.

Graham played basketball at Miami. When he exhausted his hoops eligibility this past season, he decided to give his other love a try and play football for the first time since early in high school.

“I’ve been trying to get back to football ever since I got adopted. I went to a Christian school (Charis Prep) that only had basketball, so I kind of found my way in there,” said Graham.

“But I’ve been playing basketball like a football player ever since then. I pretty much fouled out of every game in college.”

Graham then pointed out one of his favorite aspects of football: “You can’t foul out!”

As for Graham’s conversion from basketball, it appears to be going quite well. He has made several impressive catches throughout practices this week, and drew the praise of Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, who praised his performance.

In calling Gates, his “idol,” Graham would love nothing more than to follow in the San Diego star’s footsteps.

“I would just love to sit down and talk with him,” gushed Graham.

Jason Feller

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