When NFL teams began their training camps last summer, Shayne Graham was unwanted.
When the regular season began, the former Pulaski County High School and Virginia Tech placekicker remained without a job.
As November rolled around, he was still unemployed. Was his long NFL career over?
“I let those thoughts creep into my mind a couple times, but I would always try to force them out,” he said in a phone interview.
On Nov. 24, Graham’s father, Thomas, died at the age of 71. The next day, as Graham and his sister were handling the funeral arrangements, the Atlanta Falcons phoned.
On Nov. 26 — Thanksgiving Day — Graham aced his tryout in Atlanta and won the Falcons’ placekicking job. He made 11 field goals in the team’s final six games, including two in a win over eventual Super Bowl participant Carolina.
“Right after the workout, when they called me out into the hallway and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to sign you,’ I remember calling my wife and it was very hard to hold back the tears, knowing how happy my dad would have been,” Graham said.