As newly named University of Hawaii head football coach Todd Graham continues to fill out his coaching staff and recruiting class, we thought we’d look into his past and uncover some fun facts about his life and coaching career. Feel free to use this information to win bar bets or impress friends. Here we go…
♦ Graham was a two-time All-NAIA defensive back at East Central University, a school in Ada, Oklahoma. (NFL great Mark Gastineau also played football at East Central.) Graham later received a free-agent contract with the then-St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL. He later returned to East Central and was the team’s defensive coordinator on their 1993 NAIA national championship team.
♦ In 2015, Graham returned to East Central to deliver the school’s spring commencement speech. Among the graduates that day was his daughter, Hayley.
Coach Graham delivered the commencement speech at his college alma mater in 2015. Daughter Haylee was among the graduates.
♦ Graham’s coaching tree includes six current college football head coaches, including Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Mike Norvell (Florida), Jay Norvell (Nevada), Bill Napier (Louisiana), Chris Ball (Northern Arizona), Chip Lindsey (Troy) and Jake Spavital (Texas State).
♦ Graham was born on Dec. 5, 1964 in Mesquite, Texas. Mesquite is officially known as “The Rodeo Capital of Texas.”
♦ Graham’s wife, Penni Leigh Graham is a noted educator, advocate, businesswoman and author. Her recent book, Tenacious, focuses on how to win in all facets of life, using real-life stories and lessons that she experienced as a head coach’s wife.
A “Good Morning Arizona” interview with Todd and Penni Graham.
♦ After being fired from Arizona State in 2017, Graham was out of football for two seasons. Sort of. Even when he and his wife, Penni, downsided their home in Scottsdale, Arizona, Graham made sure to have space for a film room. On one occasion, Penni called him and asked, “Where are you?” Graham replied, “In the film room.” Penni quipped, “Don’t you know you don’t have a job?”
♦ Graham coached at Rice for one season before leaving for Tulsa. The following year, during halftime of the Owls’ home game against the Golden Hurricane, the Rice marching performed “Todd Graham’s Inferno,” a routine that mocked their former coach. The band director was later forced to issue an apology.
♦ Graham attended North Mesquite High School in Texas. That school’s list of notable alumni also includes actress and model Jerry Hall, who was once married to rock star Mick Jagger. Hall is now married to news media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Like Coach Graham, celebrity actress and model Jerry Hall is an alum of North Mesquite H.S.
♦ Graham’s first college coaching gig was at West Virginia, where he served as linebackers coach. The head coach of the Mountaineers was Rich Rodriguez, who would later coach Michigan and Arizona. Rodriguez is considered a pioneer of the no-huddle offense, which is a scheme Graham said he hopes to employ at Hawaii.
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