— Shayne graham (@Shaynegraham17) March 14, 2017
Hokies great Shayne Graham announced Tuesday night that he has been hired as the Special Teams Quality Control Coordinator at Central Michigan.
Graham recently retired from the NFL after 15 seasons with 10 different teams. He played in the NFL from 2001-2015 but wasn’t on an NFL roster during the 2016 season. He made his retirement official in February of 2017, stepping away from pro football “the day after the Super Bowl,” he said in a brief phone interview from Mount Pleasant, Michigan, where Central Michigan University is located.
“Time is undefeated, so of course, I knew the playing career would come to an end someday.”
He didn’t waste any time, landing a college job with the Chippewas mere weeks after ending his NFL career. Graham went into coaching because he knew he couldn’t be idle after competing for so many years.
“Mentally, I’ve been preparing for the last few years. I’ve been around so many different coaches and programs in the NFL. I’ve always paid attention, I’ve always loved the details of the game outside of just kicking the football. I started realizing whatever I do after football is going to have to be competitive. I couldn’t just sit around, couldn’t just play golf. The reality is I still need the stimulus of competition.”
As Special Teams Quality Control Coordinator, he will function as a support staff member, not as one of the nine official assistant coaches allowed by NCAA rules. As such, he can’t directly coach players but will instead function in a support role.
“I’ll have a hand in day-to-day scouting of opponents, scouting our own players, evaluations of our own guys in all the special teams roles. I’m excited to learn from the bottom up, because that’s how you learn things. You can’t have the pyramid without having the bottom base, and the more I can learn and soak up, the more it prepares me for the future.”
Graham will be working for CMU head coach John Bonamego, who will be entering his third season as the Chippewas’ head man in 2017. From 1999-2014, Bonamego coached in the NFL, which Graham says is his goal.
When asked if a head coaching job in the NFL is his ultimate aim, Graham answered, “I’m not putting head coach on my ultimate goal list yet. I don’t know that that’s something that I’d really want to do. I’m not against it, but before that happens, I’ll have to be a special teams coordinator first. Head coach isn’t out of the question, but I have to start at the bottom.
“Learning how to talk to players as a coach, learning how to talk to other coaches as a co-worker, instead of them being my boss, is all part of this next chapter. One day I see myself coaching in the NFL, and that’s a pretty lofty goal, but I’ve achieved other lofty goals.
“Even at a job like this, it’s great to have goals that I get to work hard for and get to reach for. I’ve always had that since I was a kid. I had a goal to be a high school kicker, then get a scholarship, and then win a national championship, then make the NFL, and then be as good as I could in the NFL.”
So as his playing career started to come to an end, he started leaning towards the coaching side of football. “I started paying more attention, soaking in more information about the football side of special teams, and I knew that would help me once I got into coaching. Even before I announced my retirement I was working on connections and networking.”
Talk of connections and networking — and special teams — naturally brings up the topic of Frank Beamer, and his role in helping Graham move on to this next phase.
“Coach Beamer didn’t help me with the decision to choose CMU, but he was very integral in the process of helping me with a letter of recommendation, my resume … he did a lot. I can think back to when I was leaving Virginia Tech after my playing career there, he did the same thing for me to get an NFL job. I remember getting my first gig in Buffalo [in 2001], and one of the coaches told me, ‘Thank Coach Beamer, he put in the good word for you here.’
“His reputation stretches really far, beyond Blacksburg. You can’t know football and not know who he is.”
Fifteen years of bouncing around from one NFL team to another — eight of the ten teams he played for kept him for just one season or less — has Graham ready to do all he can to keep his job and move up.
“I’ve got to earn my keep. I can be fired, just like any other coach or player, so I’ve got to be good at this. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.”
It’s a big step to move from the player side to the coaching side, but he’s ready for the opportunity. “I can’t tell you how happy I was to dig into this and think about all the things I have to do, and to get started.”