NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Kevin Graf, OT USC

2 of 2

Sep 14, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; USC Trojans running back Tre Madden (23) is lifted in the air by offensive tackle Kevin Graf (77) after scoring a first quarter touchdown against Boston College at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

PS: What bothers you most about not being invited to the Scouting Combine?

KG: The fact that I believed that I deserved to be there.  I think this year, I had an amazing year.  If you look at my numbers and my game tape, it proves that I am a great player.  Some of the best teams in the nation, I did very well against.

The Stanford game, which was supposedly one of the top defenses in the country, I completely shut down.  That was my best game this year by far.  For me, it was just frustrating because I know how good of a player I am, especially being a three year starter at SC.  Apparently, stranger things have happened.  I’m just using this as motivation and a little bit of a chip of on my shoulder to show at my pro day how good of a player I am and how much of a mistake that was for me not to be there.

PS: What’s the biggest thing you’re trying to address and improve for the NFL?

KG:  SC is all about competition.  Nothing is ever given to you and you have to earn it.  That’s what my coach was big on and that’s kind of the mentality I’m going into the NFL with.  Show them that you want to be there and show them they can’t live without you.  And that’s what I’m trying to do.  Show them how of a player good I am, how tough I am, smart, athletic smart I am, and show how competitive I can be so that people can’t say no to me.

PS: You went from being recruited by Pete Carroll to Lane Kiffin to Ed Orgeron and then you won’t play for him, but Steve Sarkisian who was hired before the bowl game.  How did the culture at USC change through all of that?

KG: It was a roller coaster of a ride.  The biggest thing that it taught me was adversity and learning to get through it.  You had Pete Carroll, who was this iconic man at SC, who everyone looked up to.  For me, I thought he was going to be like Joe Paterno at Penn State.  I thought he was gonna be there for the rest of his career.

I still remember that meeting where he came in and telling us he was gonna leave.  It was like losing my dad it felt like.  It was so heartbreaking, because I had known him for so long.  And then Kiffin came in and it was a little bit different of a mentality. I hate to say it, but it wasn’t the SC that I grew up with and knew; that made me love that place.  It was hard seeing how SC started to downfall.

When Coach O took over, it was like Pete Carroll was back; like the days I knew.  I’ve known Coach O since I was about 6 years old.  You will never meet a man who is more passionate about football and SC; how much he cared about us as players and like we were all his kids.  When he took over, it brought back the spark for our team and the love of football for a lot of us.  We were a completely different team from how we played at ASU (Arizona State) to Stanford about I think it was 4 weeks later.

PS: It is fair to say that you were in the group that was disappointed that Coach O did not get the USC job, that it ended the way it did?

KG: Absolutely.  And I think that whole team felt that way.  Like I said, I’ve known Coach O since I was 6 years old.  I’ve played under him for four years.  And when he got up in that meeting, I have never seen him cry and it tore us all apart.  We felt like we let him down.  We felt, as a team, we lost him the job.  And we really put a lot of blame on us and of course, a lot of us think he should have gotten the job, especially with how SC was and how it turned around.  At the end of the day, it’s not our decision.  It’s Pat Haden’s decision and he did what he believed.  It was his decision.

PS: Did the way he left change anything for you? Or was it simply noise after the fact that he didn’t get the job?

KG: For me, him leaving the way he did, I don’t blame him and a lot of us don’t.  Like I said, he’s a very passionate man.  He cares a lot about SC and us. He was just hurt that he really probably didn’t get the chance that he deserved.  At least coach us in the bowl game, I felt like at least wait until after then, but it wasn’t my decision.  It was hard to watch him leave and I wish he could have gotten the job.  I really do.  I think he would have done an amazing job.  He did an amazing job in about 6 weeks.  It would have been interesting to see.

PS: What was it about Coach O that made it so different?

KG: For him, it was the energy that he brought to us.  For Kiffin, he was a more laid back, I don’t want to say not enthusiastic, but more of a quiet guy.  With Coach O, it was yelling and screaming and getting after each other every play.  One of the first meetings that we had, he puts up the film of the 2005 National Championship Team and just shows how aggressive of a team they were.  If you want.  I want you to get in each other’s faces.  If you guys want to fight each other; do it.  Become mean people.  And we hadn’t heard that in a long time.

PS: Better lineman; you or your dad?

KG: Oh, me for sure.  Absolutely me.  I’ve heard John Robinson tell me how great of a player my dad was.  I actually had Hudson Houck tell me my dad was a very good player in college.  My dad is definitely not as athletic as me.  I will say he probably does compete with me in strength with me.  I’ve watched a game on him and I definitely think I’m a better player.

PS: I think the greatest role your dad has ever played was the Hot Cheese Soup guy in Beerfest.

KG: (Laughs) That is a lot of people’s biggest role for him; especially my friends.  When that first came out, I want to say I was in high school.  If not, I was just getting into college.  And it was funny, I went to the movie with a bunch of my friend and I had no idea he was even in it.    So he just popped up on screen and I freaked out and was like “Oh my God”, so that was kind of a shock for me.  But yea, I get that one a lot.

PS: There’s no magic lost for you when it comes to movies and seeing what he does?

KG: Oh absolutely.  Obviously, growing up, I learned a lot of about film.  When I’ve been getting older, you kinda look at things a little different into the movie business.  I look at things like If I go see a car movie and they see car stunts, I think “Wow, I wonder how they did that?” and try and analyze it a little more than most people, but I still enjoy going on sets, watching movies, all that.

PS: At 6’6” 300lbs, you had to at least think to yourself that you could make a little money as an extra on a movie that is looking for big barbarian looking guys?

KG: Yea (laughs), I actually had a couple opportunities, but it was always for football stuff and you can’t do anything football related until you’re out of college, so I was never able to do that.  I did get to be in one movie.  I was in middle school.  It was a movie called Timeline.  It was a movie with Paul Walker and it was about time travel and I got to dress in these 1500s, I think it was, type padding and armor.  It was up in Canada and that was the only movie I’ve ever gotten to be in so far.

PS: You’re working out with guys like Joel Bitonio, Weston Richburg, and Wesley Johnson.  Stronger beard game?  You or Joel Bitonio?

KG: Me.  Yea.  Mine, I have the thickest beard out of the group.  It just gets too hot when I grow it out.  I could grow it out pretty good lengthwise, but it is pretty full.

PS: Do you have a goal or thought process for life after football?

KG: I went into SC wanting to be a communication major, because after football, I would like to go into sports broadcasting.  That’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.  Another thing is, I want to stay around the game somehow, whether that is coaching or being a strength coach or being even a physical trainer.  Somehow, I would just like to stay around the game, because the game means so much to me that I could not imagine my life without it.  I don’t know exactly what it is, but somehow I would love to stay around the game.

PS: Color guy for USC or is that too close to home?

KG: It might be (laughs).  It might be.  I might have to do what Pat Haden did and go to Notre Dame and just hate on them the whole time.

PS: How have you tried to contribute and help people off the field?

KG: Starting my junior year, there’s the Children’s Hospital in LA that I go to probably a couple times per month.  The reason that place is so special to me is because when I was born, I had a birthmark right in the middle of my forehead that looked like it was going to turn into cancer, so I had to get it removed.  So, I have a couple of scars on my forehead.  The Children’s Hospital in LA is where I had my surgery, so I try to go down there and visit there as much as I can and show as much support as I can give, because of what they did for me.  I had three surgeries there and so, that is probably my biggest contribution off the field.

– Thank you to Kevin for taking the time to do the interview and how open and honest he was with everything.  He is an extremely smart, confident offensive tackle, so best of luck to him as he goes forward in football career.