WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y.-Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback DeWayne Washington had a huge impact on Bills wide receiver T.J. Graham.
The Bills second year man out of North Carolina State went to a camp run by Washington when he was ten years old and that's stuck with him ever since. Graham is now trying to do for Western New York youngsters what Washington did for him. He told Two On Your Side's Stu Boyar"I remember going to a DeWayne Washington football camp. He was a defensive back from NC State and played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I remember going to his camp when I was about ten years old and I loved it. Just knowing that he just did it, he did it for just one or two years, and going to that camp had a big impact on my life." That's part of the reason that Graham started his T.J. Graham Skills competition.
Graham hosted the event and was an active participant in it Saturday afternoon at Williamsville South High School. The Skills Challenge brought out numerous high school players and some middle schoolers along with a number of high school coaches. South coach Kraig Kurzanski was on hand along with Greg Bronson from Lockport, Dave Hersey from St. Mary's and Sweet Home assistant coach Mike Torillo among others. Numerous schools were represented by their players.
Canisius tailback Solomon Renfro told Stu"yeah, its actually great to see somebody give back to the community for once. I know it happens a lot but its great for him to actually be a part of it this time." Renfro is behind Qadree Ollison on the Crusaders depth chart. He told Stu "I look at it as a great experience, playing behind Qadree.He's a great guy, teaching me a lotso I'llplay behind him. I'll get my touches and I'll do my best to shine."
Among theWilliamsville South players participating were quarterbackSam Castronova and wide receiver Kevin Mason.Castronova told Stu when you do an event like the Skills Challege you "always expect to get better. Try your best. Its just fun to compete with other people." Mason had similar thoughts."Hopefully just some fun. Just getting out running some routes, making myself a little more crisp and better." Justin Hersey from St. Mary's added "There's a lot of people here from different schools so you're going to get to see a lot of talent in Western New York and you're going against some pretty good guys so it should be some pretty good competition too."
All the high school players were impressed thatGraham would devote so much energy to the Skills Challenge, his way of giving back. Castronova told Stu "I think its really cool that he's doing this and making it free for everyone so all these kids can have this experience."Mason said "I think its great he's doing this there 's a lot of stuff he could be doing but he does this to support the high school kids." Hersey said "I think its great that pro players are getting involved with the community and high school sports."
Two of Graham'sBills teammateswere at South to lend their support. Brad Smith and Stevie Johnson were there to take in the action.
No one seems to have more fun than Graham. He participated in a number of the skills. He got the idea when he was told by his agent he couldn't participate in the College All Stars Skills Classic buthis agent told him he couldn't do it. That made him mad and he cameup with the idea for the skills challenge. The Skills Challenge for Graham is really one of his ways of giving back." back. "I remember being in high school. It was a very important time in my life. I didn't know where I wanted to be or what Iwanted to do so I figured football was going to be my avenue to get me to school and eventually get me to the NFL or get me a job. So I made that my goal to become a professional athlete and there's got to be at least one kid here that I can make an impression on."