The shock of being traded by the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday quickly morphed into the awe of becoming a member of the Seahawks once Jimmy Graham talked to Russell Wilson, met with Pete Carroll and visited his new NFL home.
That was the dominant theme during Graham's 20-minute conference-call interview Thursday with reporters that cover the Seahawks – the team that traded center Max Unger and its first-round pick in next month's NFL Draft to acquire the three-time Pro Bowl tight end, as well as the Saints' fourth-round pick.
Bucky Brooks: 'The Seahawks walk away as the clear-cut winners'
Former NFL wide receiver and scout Bucky Brooks, now an analyst for NFL.com, offered this assessment of the Seahawks' acquiring tight end Jimmy Graham in Tuesday's trade with the New Orleans Saints:
"It's uncommon to land a player regarded as one of the top two talents at his position in a trade, but that's what the Seahawks did by snaring Graham, who is arguably the best tight end in the NFL. Not only is he a Pro Bowler with 51 touchdowns in 78 games, but he is the ultimate matchup nightmare on the perimeter. The 6-foot-7, 265-pound former basketball player overwhelms linebackers and defensive backs with his size, length and athleticism. He can essentially serve as a true WR1 on the perimeter, opening up the field for complementary playmakers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. Graham will also form a devastating 1-2 punch with running back Marshawn Lynch. Defensive coordinators around the NFL are surely already getting headaches thinking about creative ways to stop a more diverse Seahawks offense.
Who won?The Seahawks walk away as the clear winners, due to Graham's immediate impact on their offense. Considering Seattle made it to back-to-back Super Bowls with a pedestrian attack, the addition of Graham and the sizzle he'll bring has to make the 'Hawks favorites in the NFC. Yes, losing (center Max) Unger creates a hole along an offensive line that has struggled from time to time, but it's easier to replace a pivot in the draft than it is to find a proven difference-maker like Graham."
"Leaving New Orleans, I've been there for the last five years," the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham said. "When I went there I was a boy and I feel like now I'm leaving as a man. I do owe a lot to New Orleans and I owe a lot to that coaching staff and to all my teammates and to that city for accepting me and believing in me really early.
"It's unfortunate that I have to leave somewhere that you've been for so long, but when you go into an organization like the Seattle Seahawks – an organization that you can tell that that's all that on their mind is winning, and winning rings at that, winning championships, and that's their complete focus. For me, highly encouraged and highly motivated just to be a part of that."
From south Florida on Tuesday. To the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday. To being back in the Sunshine State on Thursday. To say the last 48 hours have been a whirlwind for Graham doesn't do justice to just how strange the turn of events turned out to be.
"It was definitely shocking," Graham said of the call from Saints coach Sean Payton on Tuesday informing him of the trade. "I had worked out in the morning. I'm actually a pilot, so I was in the plane and I took the plane to get some food. So I was actually on a beach down in Florida and I got the call from Sean Payton letting me know that I had just been traded.
Graham laughed, a couple of times, before adding, "I was just working out and kind of doing my offseason thing and the next thing I know I'm a Seahawk."
The Saints played the Seahawks at CenturyLink twice during the 2013 season – once in the regular season and again in a divisional playoff game. So Graham knew about the Seahawks.
"Right after the first game," he said of the Seahawks' 34-7 victory in Week 13, "the first thing I noticed was how close they were as an entire unit. Not only their defense, but their offense. When their offense was on the field, their defensive guys are right there screaming and yelling and literally being fans of their offense. And when their defense is out there, their offensive guys are doing the same thing.
"It just seems like they have a culture there that breeds a brotherhood. They pull for each other and they kind of compete. It seems like for them, it's all about winning. It's not about individual anything. It's all about, 'What does it take to get the win?' And I'm really looking forward to being a part of that."
And now, he's already started to get a better idea of what it means to be a Seahawk.
The indoctrination began with the first phone call from one of his new teammates – quarterback Russell Wilson, of course.
"The first guy to reach out to me was Russell," Graham said. "He called me right away. Shot me a text. We just kind of briefly spoke and talked about his goals and his team's goals and what's been going on, just really catching up and sharing some things."
Graham's enthusiasm only spiked once he arrived in Seattle to take – and pass – his physical and then visited Virginia Mason Athletic Center for his first face-to-face encounter with coach Pete Carroll.
"Man, I love him," Graham said when asked for his initial impression of the Seahawks' fiery coach. "He puts a smile on my face. He really was a players' coach. Walking in the building (Wednesday), it just seems like there's a buzz around there. There's a sense of urgency. Just the way the whole coaching staff is."
Carroll earned some bonus points with Graham because the coach was so well versed on what makes this player unique.
"Literally when he sat me down, just talking about my basketball career and going back and talking about all these things that he's heard about me, I could tell that he's a detail-oriented person," Graham said. "He knew so much about me that half the stuff I forgot about.
"That really means something. I think that means something, really, to anybody. That he would take the time to really learn all of these individual things about me and literally call almost every person that I've ever been involved with in my life some way or another to find out how I was as a person and how I was driven. That truly meant a lot."
It wasn't quite a pinch-me moment for Graham, but the emotions of going from Saint to Seahawk came close because of the thoughts that flashed through his mind as soon as the words "you've been traded" left Payton's mouth.
"Immediately once Sean said that I'd been traded, I was going through the list of everyone who had a bunch of (salary) cap space," Graham said. "So I'm thinking either Jacksonville or Oakland or somewhere. But when he told me Seattle, it definitely put a grin on my face."
That's because Graham says Priority One for him is winning. More than the 85-plus catch seasons, which he has had the past four seasons. More than the 1,200-yard receiving seasons, which he had twice in his five-season stay with the Saints. More than the 51 touchdown receptions on his NFL resume.
"I'm a team player and I'm all about winning," Graham said. "When I look at it, the most important thing to me in my career is winning championships, winning trophies and winning rings. That's really all I care about."
The Seahawks acquired Pro Bowl/All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham in a trade with the New Orleans Saints.
Graham also realizes his days of wearing No. 80 are over, because he has seen that number displayed prominently at CenturyLink Field because it was retired in 1989 to honor Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent.
"About five minutes after I hung up with Pete Carroll, I started thinking about it," Graham said. "The last time I was in that stadium, I remember 80 was hanging in the rafters. So clearly that's been retired and 80 is done for me. But I'm thinking maybe 88 will be my number. It seems like more of a round number.
"But really, I don't care what number they give me. … They could give me any number. As long as it can be an eligible receiver, I'll be good."
New number. New team. New teammates. New city. New coach. New quarterback. New offense. Talk about a shock to the system.
"There were moments of shock," Graham repeated. "But once that shock cleared, I realized I was going to the best team in football."