ECC football player transfers to Prairie View

After playing for two years on the El Camino College football team, Raymond Graham is transferring to Prairie View A&M University in Texas in late December.

The 20-year-old running back participated in 14 games with ECC, ran for 585 career yards and scored three touchdowns, taking his football and education seriously by never turning his back on anything he wanted to work towards.

“You got to go put the work in, it’s not easy,” Graham said. “Put extra work on the side even.”

Born in Lakewood California, Graham said he has shown interest in sports since he was little. His mother introduced him to football at 5-years-old and he instantly fell in love with it.

While his love for football kept his spirits up, Graham’s childhood was conflicted with gang violence and with his family involved, he started losing members of them one-by-one.

His father went to jail during the time Graham fell in love with football; his mother died when he was 7-years-old; his older brother and sister are facing life in prison and he lost his other brother in a car accident at 10-years-old.

“I never really had a stable home. Growing up, I was always going back and forth with different people,” Graham said. “It touched me as a young kid that I wanted to get out of this situation.”

ECC’s Head Football Coach Gifford Lindheim said that even though Graham had these events that could have derailed his determination, he was still able to connect with positive people.

“He has a good support system, he’s a hard worker and dedicated student,” Lindheim said.

Lindheim referred to Graham as a “strong leader” due to his selflessness in football and life.

“You got to make sure that everybody [is] doing what they’re supposed to do as a unit,” Graham said. “It’s not my team, we’re a whole team.”

Jeremiah Narvaiz, a former student and football player at EC, said he learned how to become a better player from Graham, who helped Narvaiz out in the gym by training together; something he lacked back in high school.

“I learned how to use power more,” Narvaiz said. “I learned how to understand the game a little bit differently than I did before, and I just learned how to better be a running back just in general.”

During a home game at ECC in the fall 2018 semester, Graham tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) on his left knee, forcing him to miss half a season. He underwent two surgeries and rehabilitation.

Having an ACL tear hurt Graham physically and mentally because he had to start over as an entry-level player for football programs because schools were hesitant about taking a student-athlete in with an injury this severe.

“You start thinking about other stuff when you’re hurt, especially when having [an] ACL [injury],” Graham said.

During his knee rehabilitation, Graham said he didn’t let his injury become the end of his career and continued to focus on earning his communications degree, studying with every chance he got.

“I was never slacking in my grades. I always [checked] on them no matter what,” Graham said.

Christine Jefferies, an athletic, health and community wellness counselor, helped Graham towards achieving the requirements needed for his degree.

“He’s just an amazing kid and one of my favorites of all time,” Jefferies said.

In 2019, Graham started his own non-profit organization, with Graham as the founder and two of his friends Camren McDonald and Nolan McDonald as co-founders called The Making Change Foundation, where they give back to the community by helping out the homeless.

On their Instagram page, they post videos of themselves, providing an assortments of either food in Ziploc bags or cars full of Little Ceasar’s pizza.

“Especially during COVID-19 [we were] giving back to essential workers and the homeless, passing out food in [Los Angeles] and Long Beach, doing what we can as a unit,” Graham said.

Graham said he makes sure to keep himself in shape during COVID-19, especially when he prepares himself for the football team at Prairie View A&M University where they will be playing against Grambling State University in Dallas, TX at the Cotton Bowl.

“He [Graham] has worked all his life to be playing at this level and everything,” Narvaiz said. “He [Graham] is well-deserved of it.”