RED SPRINGS — As Eric Graham prepares for his senior season with the Red Springs High School football team, he can’t help but think about the positive changes he’s made over the course of the past four seasons.
“In my freshman and sophomore years I wasn’t giving it 100 percent,” Graham said. “But the last two years, that’s when I started going at it. My intensity and work ethic have changed and I’ve matured a lot.”
The change has helped the 6-foot-2, 210-pound running back, receiver and cornerback generate a lot of attention from Division I colleges.
Graham said representatives from Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, N.C. State, UNC Charlotte and Wake Forest have expressed interest in adding him to their football programs.
“It’s really a blessing because many people don’t have this opportunity,” he said. “For my senior year, I’m ready. This is what I do, and I have to be serious about it if I want to be the best.”
Graham said East Carolina is the early favorite, but his primary focus is leaving a final mark with the Red Devils this season.
Graham, better known as “Buddy,” is hoping his play and leadership will help the team improve on last season’s 8-4 mark.
“We can’t get comfortable,” he said. “Practice is where it starts and we have to keep the intensity up every day we step on the field. It’s getting closer and I need to keep going so I can get better.”
An all-county and all-conference performer for the Red Devils, Graham plays as many as four positions during the course of practice or a game, spending time at running back, receiver, cornerback and safety.
Red Springs coach Ron Cook sees it as an advantage for his squad and Graham as he prepares for the next level.
“It’s a huge asset,” Cook said. “He’s doing a great job adjusting to what we’re trying to do. He’s staying focused and learning to make less and less mistakes. He can tackle and he’s still fairly new at corner, but he’s gotten a lot better at understanding the coverages and moving. He’s extremely versatile for us.”
Graham said it’s also important for him to show positive leadership in inspiring his teammates.
“I’m all about positive thoughts,” he said. “We all go through that stage where we have to learn and pick up on some stuff. I just tell them (my teammates) to keep going. I love seeing them grow.”
Like his improved work ethic on the field, Graham has also learned to apply that same attitude to the classroom as he sets his sights on reaching his ultimate goal of suiting up for a Division I program on Saturdays.
“It starts in the classroom,” he said. “Then, I have to take care of business on the field. When it all comes together, I know it’s going to click and I can make it somewhere.
“This is all I’ve ever wanted. Now that I have the opportunity, I’m taking advantage of it.”
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.