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Brandon Graham Makes Philadelphia Record Book With ‘Iron Eagle’

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Brandon Graham Makes Philadelphia Record Book With ‘Iron Eagle’

PHILADELPHIA – It’s a record that’s gone unchallenged since 2010, when kicker David Akers walked out the door having played in 188 games for the Philadelphia Eagles. But a new name is about to enter the all-time books as defensive end Brandon Graham will play in his 189th Eagles game on Sunday in NFL Week 12.

“You want to play this long but being with the same team, being part of this organization has been nothing but fun, these last eight years I’d say,” said Graham, now 35, who will oppose the visiting Buffalo Bills. “The beginning was a little rough, but it’s been getting better and better every year, so for me to do this, I just want to thank the guys in front of me that’s paved the way because you want to keep the train rolling … I’m just trying to make sure I do the same for the young guys that’s coming, to keep it going.”

Graham overcame an Achilles injury two years ago to keep playing. The injury happened just months after head coach Nick Sirianni was hired. “He’s a special player, special leader, special person,” said the coach. “…When he got hurt that first year, I missed him being around every day. Once he was healthy enough he was around every day, and you could feel the difference.”

The record may not stand long, because this could be Graham’s final season while Fletcher Cox will play in his 183rd career game and, the way he is performing, could be back again next year. Graham’s last eight years make it easier to forget the first five years, which weren’t bad, but let’s say, perhaps not first-round-worthy years.

After being taken 13th overall in 2010, Graham’s rookie season was cut short with a serious knee injury that required microfracture surgery, which, back then, was usually a death knell for any athlete’s career. Graham came back for the final three games of his second season. In Year 3, some of the bloom started to show when he reached 5.5 sacks, except the bloom wilted and he took a step backward in Year 4, with just 3.5 sacks and numbers lower in every category from the previous season. He never gave up, nor did the Eagles stop showing patience and stop developing him.

Brandon Graham talks about setting the Philadelphia Eagles franchise record in Week 12 when he plays in his 189th career game.Ed Kracz/SI Eagles Today

All the while, Graham was always flashing his infectious personality on the field, in team meetings, and in the locker room, a trait that endeared him to ownership, the front office, coaches, teammates, and fans. “I think that’s part of it, and then helping the guys, just having that mindset of like, you can’t do it by yourself, and you’re going to need to bring people around you,” he said. “…For me, I always try to celebrate with the guys, keep my attitude right, and that definitely is a big part of it because nobody wants to be around somebody who’s all about himself. People who know me, people who meet me, I’m going to try to be the best dude I can be. You can’t please everybody, but for me, I’m going to try to be the best me every day.”

The last eight years for Graham have included two Super Bowl appearances, going 1-1 with arguably the most iconic play in team history when he strip-sacked the GOAT, Tom Brady, in the final minutes of Super Bowl LVII. He also recorded the first double-digit sack of his career last year, at age 34, with 11.5.

Also, along the way, former head coach Chip Kelly wanted him to prove himself and talked to him about playing special teams to earn his keep. Kelly, who had fallen in love in 2014 with the play of undrafted Travis Long (who ended up suffering a career-ending knee injury that summer) and wasn’t averse to parting ways with anybody, as he did with LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. Graham wasn’t initially happy about the idea of playing special teams until he talked to Jason Peters. “I was like, man, I haven’t done that since … coach (Andy) Reid didn’t make me do that,” he said. “But (Peters) was like whatever you have to do to stay on the field, to get on that field, a lot of people wish they could be in your position. I was like, ‘Man, I get it, there’s nothing I can say.’ “Sometimes you have to have people remind you how precious this moment is because we’re all just renting space until the next man comes until they won’t let you rent no more.”

That day will come, sooner rather than later. When it does, Graham was asked about what he hopes his legacy will be. “I just want people to talk about how hard I played on the field, and I was as selfless as I could be,” he said. “…It’s the way you go about it, so I think I would want people to say he went about it the right way.”

Related: Eagles’ Brian Johnson Getting Votes of Confidence vs. Bills

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