Commerce's Hassan Graham commits to AIC

Springfield Commerce football star Hassan Graham has committed to American International College for the fall of 2013, his father and head coach Tyrone Mathis said.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Graham has been an integral part of the Red Raiders' program the last few years alongside his close friend, UConn-bound linebacker and ESPN Boston All-Stater Sha'ki Holines. Together, they led the Raiders to an appearance in the 2011 MIAA Western Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl, where they lost to intra-city rival Putnam.

Graham drew varying degrees of interest from a handful of local Division 1 FBS and FCS schools, though no formal scholarship offers were made to this point. A number of schools within the Division 2 Northeast-10 conference -- in which AIC plays -- had shown interest, most notably Stonehill, Assumption and New Haven.

The news comes a particularly proud moment for Mathis, who was an All-Conference defensive end at AIC from 1998 to 2001 and was the first in his family to attend college. Graham was a ball boy for Yellow Jackets for several seasons growing up as well.

"It's really a privilege and honor for this to be happening, because it doesn't happen to everyone," Mathis said. "To be a coach's son, but also to play at your dad's alma mater...it's funny, because the coach that coached me in college is going to coach my son now."

Graham is also a champion wrestler in three different weight classes. As a sophomore in 2011, he was Western Mass. champion at 171 pounds. As a junior in 2012, he was Division 1 state champion at 182 pounds. This past winter, he won Western Mass. again, this time at 195 pounds.

At AIC, Graham figures to project at either linebacker or safety. Mathis is one of several people coaching Graham and area all-stars on the Western Mass. squad in Friday's annual Shriners Chowder Bowl Classic, and speaks passionately of Graham -- who reportedly has gotten his 40 time down into the 4.5 range -- at the safety spot.

"I'm coaching him in the Chowder Bowl, where they'll play him at a safety. First play [of the first practice] he came downhill and made this bone-crushing hit," Mathis said. "The second time, he forced a fumble, and I'm thinking man, this might be a spot for him. I really like him at safety. He has the body, height and size built for the position, and if there's an opportunity for him to play that at the next level I think that would be a good spot for him."