Boston Patriots WR Art Graham.
When Art Graham started his Boston Patriots career in 1963, it was customary for players of that era to hold a side job, which they worked in the offseason, to supplement their income. Graham, who was raised nearby in Somerville, Mass., was no exception. In the offseason, the Boston College product returned to his hometown to work his "part-time, full-time" job as a probation officer. He never relinquished the position, working 34 years in Somerville before retiring.
"It was rewarding work," said Graham (1963-68), who is honored as one of two wide receivers on the Patriots 1960s All-Decade Team. "It's always nice to be able to contribute in the community that you grew up in."
Graham's roots to the region run further still.
A member of BC's Athletics Hall of Fame, the former Patriots deep threat came from an athletic family. His father spent several seasons during the 1930s in the Red Sox farm system. Although his father never saw time with the big club, Graham found it particularly rewarding when he was drafted by the Patriots with the seventh overall pick in the 1963 AFL Draft.
"It was a great moment for my family," Graham said. "I think it's any athlete's dream to play for their hometown team."
Graham fondly recalled his Draft Day memory.
"We'd played Holy Cross that weekend and the AFL Draft was held on a Saturday afternoon, so we'd just finished playing when I found out that I was drafted. Then, the NFL Draft was on the following Tuesday. So we all had a joke that the guys that were drafted into the AFL all went missing over that weekend because they didn't want the NFL teams to be able to contact us."
The Patriots acted swiftly and offered Graham a $10,000 signing bonus before the Cleveland Browns took him in the 11th round of the NFL Draft. Patriots owner Billy Sullivan tried to bring the sides to a speedy agreement by enlisting a BC professor of ethics, who told Graham that he had entered into a 'moral contract' with his hometown team.
Graham hesitated. He'd played in the East-West Shrine game that year with fellow end Tom Hutchinson of the University of Kentucky, who'd been taken by the Browns with their first-round pick.
"I looked at him and said, 'I'm better than he is.' But I think they looked down on a lot of schools in the East and I don't think BC had the reputation it has today.
"But we knew we could play."
Still, Graham couldn't pass up the opportunity to play in Boston and proceeded to prove his worth in his rookie season. He was named Patriots Rookie of the Year in 1963 after setting a team record with 26.2 yards per catch and five touchdowns, including a franchise-long 77-yard bomb from Babe Parilli.
"I used to joke that it was amazing that I - an Irish kid - ever got the ball from a quarterback named Parilli with a receiver named [Gino] Cappelletti and a tight end named [Tony] Romeo," Graham laughed.
Graham and his ability to stretch the field - together with fellow BC alum Jim Colclough and Cappelletti - helped to form a potent aerial attack led by Parilli.
"It was pretty unusual at that time to throw the ball as much as we did," Graham said. "It's pretty typical now that you see Tom Brady or Drew Brees throw the ball 30, 35 times. Sometimes you'd see Babe [Parilli] doing that back then. You just didn't see that much."
A true New Englander, Graham has lived with his wife, Judy, on Cape Cod since his retirement. The couple has two daughters, Leigh and Lynne.