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Jimmy Graham Looking to Make an Impact in Second Season

Jimmy Graham spiked the ball ferociously after a touchdown catch during a recent training camp practice, drawing a combination of cheers and laughter from the fans behind the end zone.

The celebration seemed to be Graham’s way of saying he was really starting to understand how to play in the NFL, and having fun doing it.

“We’re just competitive and I knew they were going to watch it later on film, so it’s funny,” Graham said of the spike, which came after he made leaping catch in a crowd of defenders, much like the way he grabbed rebounds when he was a college basketball power forward.

“I am 10 times better than I was last year at this point,” Graham continued. “But for me it’s still (about) working hard and just keep taking those baby steps.”

Graham, who came from humble beginnings in North Carolina that included being picked on while living in a group home for children and being told by relatives that he’d “amount to nothing,” leans toward modesty when talking about himself.

Yet, while Graham talks about “baby steps,” the Saints see the 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end making significant strides toward becoming one of the more fearsome components of their already explosive offense.

Some of that is based on his performance in the latter part of 2010, when quarterback Drew Brees began targeting him more.

Graham wound up starting five games, finishing with 31 catches for 356 yards, including one reception as long as 52 yards, and five touchdowns.

“It’s easy to spot just raw talent, which he obviously (has),” Brees said. “He wants to be great and he is willing to work to do that. That is everything that you would want in a guy. He listens. … He is starting to understand how important technique and fundamentals are.”

After playing four seasons of basketball at Miami, Graham played one season of football with the Hurricanes. He caught 17 passes for 213 yards and five touchdowns.

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