- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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A tip of the cap to Arizona State head coach Todd Graham for continuing to be a class act and a strong ambassador for the school, the state and the coaching profession.
The following letter appeared in yesterday's Arizona Republic -- from an Arizona fan. But as you'll read (navigate to the bottom middle of page C2 in the sports section to see the original), school allegiances don't really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.
Coach Graham a hero off the field
I am an alumnus and fan of the University of Arizona, and bleed Wildcat red and blue. I watched ASU coach Todd Graham lead the Sun Devils to a very good season, and by all appearances he has restored some class and discipline to the football program.
But I write about something more important that happened before last football season, when coaches were recruiting players who had been released from their commitment to Penn State. A dear friend of my sister-in-law is a nurse in Phoenix, and his closest friend, also in his early 20s, was dying of cancer in a hospice facility. The nurse left a message for Graham describing the situation with the cancer patient, a big ASU fan. When Graham called, he explained he was about to board a plane to go to Pennsylvania to recruit, and asked if he could visit when he returned. Two days later, when his plane landed at Sky Harbor, Graham did not go to his office or home to see his family. He went immediately to the hospice to see the dying young man. He spent 90 minutes with him -- talking football, encouraging him and praying with him. The young man was in and out of consciousness, but the coach stayed and prayed, even when the patient was not awake. The young man died six hours later.
What Graham did that day meant a lot to the young man and his family. The coach will not blow his own horn but I thought this story should be known. As a U of A fan I will still root against ASU, but I will always root for Graham, a quality coach and more importantly, a quality man.
— J. Gregory Osborne, Tempe
This isn't the first time we've seen this from Graham. We posted a similar letter back in August. Same scenario, different people. And I'm willing to bet this happens a lot more than is actually written about. So once again, kudos to Graham.