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Thursday, April 30, 2009
Graham trading hoops for helmet

By Heather Dinich
ESPN.com

Miami forward Jimmy Graham has decided to chase a dream and join the Hurricanes football team as a tight end, the Miami Herald reported.

Graham, a former defensive end and receiver in high school, hasn't played the sport since he was at Charis Prep in Wilson, N.C.

"[Coach] Randy Shannon sat me down, we had a little conversation, and I made a decision to come back to college," he told the Herald on Wednesday. "I'm really excited. Now I can't foul out. Now I can be as aggressive as I want to be. I'm excited to be hit for the first time. I know I'm giving up money I had on the table to be a pro basketball player [overseas]."

Graham has exhausted his basketball eligibility, but still has one year to play football. Graham didn't practice with the Hurricanes during spring football, but Shannon said Graham was around the team a lot. "He's been with Jacory [Harris] some," Shannon said on the coaches' ACC teleconference earlier this month. "He's been with other guys on the football team. ... If he is able to come out and help us, his size and his speed, watching him run up and down the basketball court, may help us."

Shannon said the most difficult part for Graham would be putting on the shoulder pads and running. Graham is about 6-foot-8 and 265 pounds and has good speed, but he would have to get used to blocking. Shannon seems to think he's capable of it.

"Sometimes when you see a guy like that, you say he's an athlete, he can do it," Shannon said. "It's just a chance for him."

Graham could help Miami's depth at tight end, especially if Dedrick Epps isn't fully healed from his knee injury. Shannon said last week Epps isn't wearing his brace and seems ahead of schedule, but the staff is cautiously optimistic and waiting to see how his knee reacts to the strain of training camp.

Graham isn't the only ACC hoopster exploring his football options. The search to continue his career as a quarterback continues for former Duke guard Greg Paulus, whose next stop will be Nebraska.

ESPN's Joe Schad reported earlier this week that Paulus was impressed with his visit to Syracuse, but wanted to keep all of his options open. Paulus is expected to visit the Cornhuskers on Thursday.

Joe Casamento, Paulus' prep football coach at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, told the Lincoln Journal Star he encouraged Paulus not to make a hasty decision.

"I think he's going out to learn about Nebraska," Casamento said, according to the report. "Obviously, he's not as familiar with Nebraska as he is with Syracuse because he grew up here. He just wants to learn about Nebraska, see what it is.

"If he wanted to be safe, he would just go out, never do another thing and always talk about how great he was at Duke," Casamento said. "But he's going to go out there and play another sport, and lay it out there.

"If he doesn't get on the field, all those guys on ESPN and ABC, and all those newspaper guys are going to have a field day cutting him to pieces. But he doesn't worry about it. I think that shows tremendous courage."

Heather Dinich covers the ACC for ESPN.com.