Today in Patriots History
The Pats' first Deep Threat
The Pats' first Deep Threat
Happy 80th birthday to Art Graham
Born July 31, 1941 in Somerville
Patriot split end, 1963-1968; uniform #84
Pats 1st round (7th overall) selection of the 1963 draft, from Boston College
As were many players in the early days of the Boston Patriots, Art Graham was a local guy. He was born and raised in Somerville, went to Matignon High School in Cambridge, and then Boston College.
Two months after turning 22, in his third game as a pro Graham had six receptions for 156 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Jets at Shea Stadium. In his rookie season Art Graham averaged a whopping 26.2 yards per catch, with five touchdowns as the Patriots defeated Buffalo to win the AFL East before losing to San Diego in the championship game. He followed that up with 45 receptions for 720 yards and six TDs the following year. Highlights included an eight-reception, 167 yard game against Houston at Fenway Park on November 6 when the Pats nipped the Oilers 25-24 to improve their record to 6-2-1. Graham ravaged the Oilers again three weeks later in Houston with a 104 yard performance that included an 80 yard TD reception from Parilli to open the second half for the Pats fourth win in a row.
Graham was not just a one dimensional player. Twice in that 10-3-1 '64 season he ran down opponents to make game saving tackles on long punt returns. The first was in week one against the Raiders on September 13 in a 17-14 win, and a week later he stopped Hall of Famer Lance Alworth after a 43 yard runback in a 33-28 victory over the defending champs.
Art also held the franchise record for the most receptions in a single game for 33 years. In a late season game between the league's two best teams he had eleven receptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots 27-27 tie at Kansas City on November 20, 1966. Graham also once caught a 22-yard touchdown pass - despite wearing only one shoe - in the Pats 20-14 win over Miami Dolphins a week later. As fate would have it, that would be the last time that the Pats would win in Miami until the Squish the Fish game, twenty years later. (Miami did lose a home game to the Patriots in 1969, but that was played in Tampa.)
Art Graham played in 75 games over six seasons for the Patriots, with 199 receptions for 3,107 yards and 20 touchdowns. Through the first twenty years of the franchise's existence, Graham ranked third in yards receiving and touchdown receptions. He is a member of the Pats All-Decade Team of the 1960s at wide receiver, alongside flanker Jim Colclough and end Jim Whalen. Graham is also in the Boston College Athletics Hall of Fame.
Art Graham, Class: 1963 Induction: 1970 Sport(s): Baseball, Football - An All-America end, he set the Boston College season record for pass receptions in his senior
Jan 20, 2010:
A member of BC's Athletics Hall of Fame, the former Patriots deep threat came from an athletic family. His father spent several seasons during the 1930s in the Red Sox farm system.
When Art Graham started his Boston Patriots career in 1963, it was customary for players of that era to hold a side job, which they worked in the offseason, to supplement their income. Graham, who was raised nearby in Somerville, Mass., was no exception. In the offseason, the Boston College product returned to his hometown to work his "part-time, full-time" job as a probation officer. He never relinquished the position, working 34 years in Somerville before retiring.
"It was rewarding work," said Graham (1963-68), who is honored as one of two wide receivers on the Patriots 1960s All-Decade Team. "It's always nice to be able to contribute in the community that you grew up in."
Graham's roots to the region run further still.
A member of BC's Athletics Hall of Fame, the former Patriots deep threat came from an athletic family. His father spent several seasons during the 1930s in the Red Sox farm system. Although his father never saw time with the big club, Graham found it particularly rewarding when he was drafted by the Patriots with the seventh overall pick in the 1963 AFL Draft.
"It was a great moment for my family," Graham said. "I think it's any athlete's dream to play for their hometown team."
Graham fondly recalled his Draft Day memory.
"We'd played Holy Cross that weekend and the AFL Draft was held on a Saturday afternoon, so we'd just finished playing when I found out that I was drafted. Then, the NFL Draft was on the following Tuesday. So we all had a joke that the guys that were drafted into the AFL all went missing over that weekend because they didn't want the NFL teams to be able to contact us."
The Patriots acted swiftly and offered Graham a $10,000 signing bonus before the Cleveland Browns took him in the 11th round of the NFL Draft. Patriots owner Billy Sullivan tried to bring the sides to a speedy agreement by enlisting a BC professor of ethics, who told Graham that he had entered into a ‘moral contract' with his hometown team.
Graham hesitated. He'd played in the East-West Shrine game that year with fellow end Tom Hutchinson of the University of Kentucky, who'd been taken by the Browns with their first-round pick.
"I looked at him and said, ‘I'm better than he is.' But I think they looked down on a lot of schools in the East and I don't think BC had the reputation it has today.
"But we knew we could play."
Still, Graham couldn't pass up the opportunity to play in Boston and proceeded to prove his worth in his rookie season. He was named Patriots Rookie of the Year in 1963 after setting a team record with 26.2 yards per catch and five touchdowns, including a franchise-long 77-yard bomb from Babe Parilli.
"I used to joke that it was amazing that I - an Irish kid - ever got the ball from a quarterback named Parilli with a receiver named [Gino] Cappelletti and a tight end named [Tony] Romeo," Graham laughed.
Graham and his ability to stretch the field - together with fellow BC alum Jim Colclough and Cappelletti - helped to form a potent aerial attack led by Parilli.
"It was pretty unusual at that time to throw the ball as much as we did," Graham said. "It's pretty typical now that you see Tom Brady or Drew Brees throw the ball 30, 35 times. Sometimes you'd see Babe [Parilli] doing that back then. You just didn't see that much."
A true New Englander, Graham has lived with his wife, Judy, on Cape Cod since his retirement. The couple has two daughters, Leigh and Lynne.