Friday Night Hero: Salisbury's O'Bryan Graham
By Nick Bowton
Rowan County schools didn’t have classes Monday, so Salisbury senior O’Bryan Graham spent the day at home. Thinking.
The more Graham sat there, the more he thought about his Aunt Cheryl. He found out Saturday she had passed away, but the reality of the situation didn’t hit him until Monday. And by the time Graham got to school to prepare for the Hornets’ game that night at Ledford, coaches could tell his mind was elsewhere.
Graham explained the situation to head coach Joe Pinyan, and Pinyan told Graham the decision was his as to whether he would play. Graham not only played but shined in a 24-7 victory.
“I figured if I go out there and play and give it all I got, it would be a good thing for her,” said Graham, who plays the outside linebacker/safety position that Pinyan’s staff calls the hornet. “She always liked to see me in sports and playing football. I’ve been playing football since third grade, so I figured if I go out there and we win the game for her, that’s the best I could do.”
Graham had as much to do with the victory as any of his defensive teammates.
A senior who transferred from North Rowan before this season, Graham made 14 total tackles, two of them for loss, forced a fumble that led to Salisbury’s first TD and also broke up a pass.
Not a bad game for a guy who came to Salisbury intent on playing quarterback.
Graham went into his junior season at North expecting to be the starting quarterback but ended up as a running back. When he got to Salisbury, he found John Knox at quarterback and an overflowing stable of running backs.
“We kind of coaxed him into playing defense,” said David Johnson, who coaches the Hornets. “Then he started to gain interest in playing, and from there it just took off.”
Pinyan said Graham would tell you today he’d still rather play quarterback, but Graham seems to like his new home.
He even said he’s “stuck on defense now.” Not as in the coaches stuck him there but, rather, that they couldn’t get him back on offense if they tried.
Since the switch to defense, Graham has slowly turned into one of Salisbury’s most solid tacklers and has also developed a knack for forcing fumbles. He even returned an interception for a touchdown against Central Davidson.
Against Ledford, Graham read a play correctly, knew who was getting the ball, made the hit in the backfield and jarred the ball loose.
Teammate Pierre Jimenez recovered, and Salisbury tied the game at 7-all on the ensuing drive.
“His effort against Ledford was just phenomenal,” Pinyan said. “He controlled the edge. He took away a lot of their offense just by being a heads-up, gutsy player out there.”
Pinyan and the Hornets have gotten used to gutsy efforts from Graham, whether it be playing the second half against West Davidson despite a sprained ankle he suffered two days earlier or playing against Ledford two days after the death of his aunt.
“I was actually pretty happy,” Graham said of his decision to play Monday. “I knew I gave it my all for my aunt.”