Oct. 30, 2013
RUSTON, La. - When Louisiana Tech takes the field against Lamar and the fire bell sounds throughout Joe Aillet, one Bulldog will take the field more motivated than ever before, knowing he has been blessed with the opportunity for a sixth season.
In 2012, the LA Tech offensive line suffered a big blow when senior lineman Jeremy Graffree tore his Achilles tendon early in fall camp. Graffree would be sidelined for the entire season and faced with one looming question. Was his college career finished?
"After the Achilles injury last year, I did not think of it as losing my senior season," Graffree said. "I always knew I was coming back. I always worked like I was coming back. If there had been any doubt in my mind, I would not have been able to give my all. I just stayed focus and put everything else into God's hands and let him handle that situation."
This was not the first time Graffree had suffered a major blow in fall camp. In 2008 the Gauthier, Miss. native decided to stay in state and start his college career at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. During fall camp of his freshman season, Graffree pulled wide to block on a screen and multiple teammates fell into his leg while making a tackle.
"I thought it was a hyperextension, so I continued to practice even though my knee kept giving out," Graffree said. "This was my freshman year. I needed to show the coach that I was tough and was not faking anything. After practice I went to the team doctor and he told me at first glance he was 99 percent sure I tore my ACL. He told me I needed surgery and that my season was over. I broke down right there. That was my freshman season and I did not know what to expect."
After missing all of his freshman season, Graffree would bounce back in 2010 to be named a first team all-American for Mississippi Gulf Coast. Following his remarkable campaign in 2010, Graffree joined the Bulldogs after receiving offers to multiple Division I schools. Graffree saw action in several games as the Bulldogs made a late season run to become Western Athletic Conference Champions in 2011.
Following the WAC Championship season in 2011, Graffree suffered the Achilles injury just weeks before the 2012 season kicked off at Houston. Rather than dwell on the injury, Graffree remained positive and worked tirelessly to rehab and bounce back.
"I did the same thing after the ACL and Achilles injury, I made a promise to myself that I would bounce back and be better than I was before," Graffree said. "I continue to work hard and put in extra work to get better. I learned from those injuries that some people will have more obstacles than others and it is all about how you handle those obstacles. I would do whatever it takes to keep moving and keep the negative thoughts out of my mind. I always stayed positive."
Senior Larry Banks, who has blocked alongside Graffree since he has been at Tech, continued to encourage Graffree throughout his recovery process.
"I told Jeremy to keep pushing and always keep a positive attitude," Banks said. "In life you go through some adversities and you need people to uplift you. When someone gets down or negative, they need to have someone there to boost them up. I always told him that things were going to work out for the better."
Graffree was now forced to sit and ponder whether or not the NCAA would grant him a sixth season. Offensive line coach Matt Moore said that thought never crossed Graffree's mind.
"Jeremy approached the sixth year in a very positive way, as if he knew he was going to get it the whole time," Moore said. "You cannot come out here and doubt. We had several other players in the same boat and he never doubted, he just knew he was going to get it. It was business as usual for him when he heard the news."
This past August while Graffree continued to rehab, Head Coach Skip Holtz walked down to the weight room to find Graffree and let him know the good news.
"Coach Holtz came up to me with a smile and whispered in my ear `Congratulations, you got your sixth year,'" Graffree said. "I started celebrating and my teammates looked at me like I was crazy. Once I told them the good news, everyone joined in on the celebration."
Banks said that seeing his teammate overcome such adversity has helped not only motivate him, but to motivate other players throughout the Bulldog locker room.
"It is emotional to see your brother go through an injury like that," Banks said. "It makes you want to keep working hard for him and to keep pushing for him. When you think you cannot go anymore, you see Jeremy and you know that you can."
Jeremy Graffree is now prepared to move forward in his career and get back on to the field to prove that just like before he can come back stronger, more determined and better than ever before.
"God puts adversity into people's lives for a reason," Graffree said. "He is trying to make you better, and I was not going to crumble down over an injury. I chose to let the injury serve as motivation to become even better than I was before."
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