Post-season follow-up with RB Coach, Daryl Graham

Written by
Jeff Corrion

During the 2013 MHSAA football season we talked with former Detroit DePorres, Michigan Tech/Wayne State, and current Oak Park High School RB Coach, Daryl Graham about John Kelly, Mike Weber, and a few other players he was training. By now you know the names; John Kelly - Class of 2015 RB/DB from Oak Park High School, Mike Weber - Class of 2015 RB from Cass Tech High School, and Daelin Hayes - Class of 2016 RB/OLB from Orchard Lake Saint Mary's High School. Graham has worked with these 3 backs as well as a handful of other local runningbacks looking to learn from a player who has "been there done that."

Daryl Graham transferred from Michigan Tech to Wayne State looking to be closer to home and work with the youth of Detroit. Graham is currently top 10 in the GLIAC with over 3,000 rushing yards and played alongside, Joique Bell who plays on the Detroit Lions.

Graham is the RB Coach for Oak Park so while he keeps track of all his backs during the season, while working out with them during the offseason - he gets to see one familiar family face a lot, John Kelly. Kelly is an explosive 5'10" 194 lbs RB/DB who currently has 6 offers; Michigan State, Minnesota, Western Michigan, Maryland, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati. Coach Graham was able to see Kelly between the 2 offseasons and up close and personal, being the RB Coach of Oak Park, described what he was impressed with John Kelly in terms of his of his progression from 2012 - 2013, "I was impressed with John's hunger," said Graham. "A lot of the kids start hearing how good they are, and lose focus on what’s in the future (Free scholarship and competing against some of the top talent in the country)."

Seeing John Kelly in practice, in games, and in the weight room allows for consistent and constant feedback/ tips from Coach Graham. Daryl Graham described some things that he worked with Kelly on over the 2013 offseason that he applied on the field for the Football season, "Ball security and not allowing one defender to take him down. Most importantly being a vocal leader."

- John Kelly Junior Season Highlights on Hudl

Besides for being Oak Park's RB Coach, Graham also works with Cass Tech RB Mike Weber, a team that Graham's Oak Park Knights led by his former Head Coach, Greg Carter will lead onto Wayne State in week 1 vs. Cass Tech. Coincidentally as it seems, Graham has been running several training sessions at Tom Adams Field on campus of Wayne State University. Last year there was not much time for Daryl Graham to watch Weber play but with film, Graham was able to see the progression of Weber too. "We kept in contact via weekly phone calls and text messages. Some of the things I saw in Mike this past season was; ball security, vision, and finishing more runs."

Mike Weber currently holds 11 offers from SEC teams like Tennessee and Kentucky, Big 10's like Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, etc. and 6 other impressive Football schools.

Graham is thrilled to be in the middle of the two RB's when they meet in week 1, "Oh wow," said Coach Graham when asked what he looks forward to seeing Kelly and Weber go head to head. "Honestly, I’m looking for both guys to show the world why they are considered two of the top players in the country. Also, making this one of the best high school games people ever attend in the state of Michigan. But like I tell them when we train who wants to be the #1 player in the country. And of course at the end of the game, I want both guys healthy and have great stats starting off their senior year, and Oak Park victorious of course."

Last season, Oak Park burst on the statewide scene by defeating Orchard Lake Saint Mary's at Wayne State. At the time, Daelin Hayes was not training with Daryl Graham. Graham shared what he has seen from Daelin since he started working with him, "Daelin Hayes is a tremendous athlete that has one of the best work ethics, I have seen at the high school level. He remind me of myself when I played, he has the determination to want to be great."

Although an injury forced Hayes to miss most of the 2013 football season, he still hauled in an SEC offer from Tennessee, as well as; Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. Graham detailed what he likes about the skills of Hayes, "He's a very talented kid he can play either RB or LB at the next level," said Graham. "The skills set that he don't have he's willing to learn and develop them. So he has a lot of great football ahead of him."

Daryl Graham proved with his on field success that he knows what he is doing and day by day works on his craft to continue to improve on his skills, opened up about how he transitioned from being coached and performing to being a Coach and communicating with the RB's, "It’s actually not that difficult," said Graham. "I honestly think it’s a God given talent. The kids I work with are extremely smart. And I try to break things down to them in the simplest form."

Graham talked about the coachability of the RB's that he trains; "John Kelly, Mike Weber, Nick Turner, Lenard “Flash” Covington, Daelin Hayes, Ricardo Brown, Jayvonte Ball, Carl Turner, and Arthur "Lil Lew" Nichols lll are some of the best young athletes I have been around," said Graham. "They listen, ask questions, but overall great coachable kids. I rarely get kids that are not coachable. I am not just a RB coach, I am a stern disciplinary as well. So I don’t really have any bad student athletes."

As the Runningback coach for Oak Park, it can be really challenging for Graham to distribute his attention equally when Kelly will be the Senior and a player that Coach Carter can 100% trust to get the job done. Coach Graham replied to how he works with each of his Runningback's to help them maximize their potential, "Well for me I let my backs set their own season goals. Then I give them goals, which can be pretty extreme. But it gives them something to strive for. The biggest challenge for me is making sure they all get reps."

Weber and Kelly have no problems at all coming in to train with Graham. It simply becomes a matter of finding the time to. Both players need to make sure their grades are equally toned up as their skills, so when the time is right, Graham replied with how strong the work ethics of the two backs is, "For the most part the guys work ethic has been great. The weather was not an issue. We trained indoors up until last week. The biggest issue was scheduling workouts around their big recruiting engagements. Both guys are a hot commodity."

In the final week of April, 2014 - Saline High School was hosting a "Invite Only" camp that was exclusive to Rivals media. The event was for the Midwest region and featured lots of talented in-state players and others around the Region. During the week regardless of the cold temperatures, Mike Weber and Dealin Hayes were training at 5am throughout the week, while others who participated were either sleeping or preparing to go to school. The extra dedication paid off as Graham touched up on their training and preparation for the Rivals camp. Mike Weber was camp MVP at RB and Daelin Hayes was camp MVP at LB.

After the harsh winter that passed by in Michigan, things are finally starting to warm up and the snow is all but clear. Daryl Graham closed by responding to what his plans are for his backs until they lace up the cleats and buckle up the pads in August, "Yes we are finally getting better weather," said Graham. "My main goal for all of my players is that they keep their grades up and stay healthy. My RB training has 4 phases and we are at the end of the 3rd phase. So the training sessions here on out are going to be very demanding and challenging. I want all of my boys to have the mindset that when they step on any field it’s not one person that has outworked them."