Art Graham was chosen as a wide receiver on the Globe’s All-Time All-Scholastic football team. As part of the project, he discussed his football life with us. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: Your sophomore year at Boston College, you were playing defensive end and you came up against another one of the guys on our All-Time All-Scholastic team, Joe Bellino, during his Heisman year. What do you remember about how good he was that year when you played Navy?
AG: Well, that’s an interesting story because defensively at Matignon I was either a free safety or defensive back. I didn’t play much defensive end. During fall practice sophomore year, I was maybe fourth defensive end on the depth charts, and we’re opening up with Joe Bellino. Being from Somerville when Joe was back in Winchester, I remember going into the Garden to watch him play basketball, so I knew a lot about him and followed him during his four years at Navy. So it got to be about the second week of camp and two of the defensive ends got hurt, so they moved me up to the second defensive end like five days before the opening game against Navy. And the first defensive end ended up pulling a hamstring warming up before the game. So when Joe showed up with the Patriots as my teammate, I said, “You know, you better thank me.” And he said, “What’re you talking about?” And I said, “You better thank me. I made you an All-American. I chased you around the field the whole afternoon and I never caught you once.” He was something special.
Q: Your rookie year with the Pats, you averaged 26 yards per reception. What made you such a great deep threat?
AG: I think they were surprised. At that time I was 6-1, 205 pounds, and I was the second or third fastest guy on the team. We’d have those 50 yard dashes at the beginning of the season just to see who was the fastest guy and I’d win one or two of those. And the other guy was Don Webb, who was a defensive back, and Larry Garron, who was a running back. When I was playing, defensive backs would come up and try to give you the bump and run. And if that was the case, I’d like it because playing basketball and other sports taught me to maneuver much quicker, to head fake and that stuff, so I was able to get around them pretty quick. I would take off and now they would have to catch up to me.
Q: Your football career was finished by the time you were 29. Was that hard to take for your career to be over so soon?
AG: I had some crazy injuries ... The Patriots decided to put me on the taxi squad and I said “No thank you.” I signed the next year with the Miami Dolphins. I got a contract with them making more money than I ever did with the Patriots. George Wilson was the coach and he ends up getting fired a week later. [Don] Shula takes over and then they had a players strike. I get a call the Friday before the season starts and Shula tells me I’m on the taxi squad again, so that’s how I made the decision to retire.
Back then, not too many guys were playing football in their 30s and were not in the shape that they are today. So the decision to retire, I think I look back and I say maybe good, maybe bad, but I can’t complain I had a good career. I enjoyed it.
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