NFL Combine Notebook: Pitt's Graham ready to put skills on display
Former Pitt star Ray Graham is congratulated by Devin Street after scoring a touchdown against Temple for the Panthers last season.
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By Gerry Dulac
INDIANAPOLIS - Ray Graham and his Pitt teammates knew he was back from the knee injury that ended his 2011 season when he rushed for 172 yards against No. 1 Notre Dame in November, including a 55-yard burst on the first play from scrimmage.
But Graham, Pitt's second all-time leading rusher, wants to make sure he proves the same thing to NFL coaches and general managers at the scouting combine. And he gets his chance today when the running backs are tested and drilled at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"I know a lot of people doubt me," said Graham, who rushed for 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. "A lot of people see me, but they don't know I'm back yet. I just want everyone to know I'm here to do everything, I'm healthy, I'm feeling good, I'm back."
Graham (5-9, 199) tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Connecticut Oct. 26, 2011, and missed Pitt's final three games. At the time, he was the second-leading rusher in Division I-A with 958 yards and considered skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
But he returned for the 2012 season opener, posted his first 1,000-yard season and passed Curvin Richards for second on Pitt's all-time rushing list behind Tony Dorsett.
His only disappointment was missing Pitt's Compass Bowl game - his final in a Panthers uniform - because of a hamstring injury.
"I still had my hopes high," Graham said. "I still kept a smile on my face every day. I knew one day I'd be back here and I'd be going again, be back up, be back at it.
"It's just another challenge in my life that God has planned for me. Being that high and this year, to where you got to make a name for yourself again, it was a humbling experience for me. I'm gonna go out there, work my butt off and do whatever I got to do to get on someone's team."
Don't forget Lattimore
Alabama's Eddie Lacy likely is the only running back in the draft worthy of a first-round selection, but Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina might have been on that list if it weren't for a gruesome knee injury.
Lattimore, though, has made a speedy recovery since he tore the anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee in the ninth game of his junior season Oct. 27, requiring a 21/2-hour surgery. His surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, said Lattimore is three months ahead of schedule and has added 20 pounds of muscle.
Lattimore is determined to be ready to play in an NFL season opener in September, inspired by other running backs such as Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore and Willis McGahee who returned from similar injuries.
Nonetheless, he might have the most scrutinized knee at the combine. He said he was examined for 31/2 to 4 hours by nearly every medical staff in the NFL.
"They're investing a lot of money into you, so I understand the process, and why they have to make sure everything's OK, everything's progressing," Lattimore said. "I'm pretty sure every team was there."
He's got speed and more
Former Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin wants to be known for more than just being an Olympic long jumper. He wants to be the fastest man to run at the combine. Ever.
And he thinks he can do it.
Goodwin said his goal is to break the 40-yard dash record of LSU wide receiver Trindon Holliday, who ran a 4.21 in 2010. He will get his chance today.
"I want to run the fastest ever," Goodwin said. "That's my goal."
Goodwin was the most valuable player in the Alamo Bowl after his 64-yard touchdown run and 36-yard touchdown catch in Texas' victory against Oregon State. While his speed is what everyone notices, Goodwin said he wants to show NFL coaches and general managers he has skills beyond that.
"I'm looking to run the fastest, but I want to prove that I'm more than a speed guy," Goodwin said. "I can run routes. ... I'm definitely not a track guy playing football. I'm a football guy that just happens to jump really far.... I want to show I can catch the ball away from my body. Anyone can run a 40."
Two of the nine fastest 40 times posted at the combine were by Steelers players - cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke (4.25) in 2011 and wide receiver Mike Wallace (4.28) in 2009.
Bills groom Whaley for GM
The Buffalo Bills extended the contract of assistant general manager Doug Whaley, smoothing the transition for him to eventually replace general manager Buddy Nix. The team announced the contract signing Saturday while Whaley and Bills executives were attending the NFL combine.
Whaley, of Upper St. Clair and Pitt, also serves as the Bills' director of player personnel. He completed his third season in Buffalo after spending 12 seasons in various scouting positions with the Steelers.
Nix, 73, identified Whaley as his eventual successor.
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com; twitter: @gerrydulac. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First Published February 23, 2013 10:41 pm