Bears Draft Steal: Bucs Called, Wanted to Sign Me

Thomas Graham Jr. Bucs

Getty Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy.

Chicago Bears rookie cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. was ranked by PFF as the No. 76 player out of its top 100 players in the draft this year. Thus, when the talented corner out of Oregon fell to the Bears in the sixth round, they didn’t hesitate to snag him with the 228th overall pick.

In a June 22 interview on Kieq on the Mic, Graham talked about the night he was drafted, and he shared a few revealing anecdotes along the way.

“It was a long wait,” Graham said about draft night. “I thought I was going to go off the board higher.” Then, on Day 3, his phone rang — only it wasn’t the Chicago Bears calling.

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Graham: Bucs Wanted to Sign Me as an UDFA

After waiting for what felt like decades for his phone to ring, Graham says it finally did. Only it wasn’t Matt Nagy — at least, not yet. The first call came from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — to let him know they wanted to sign him after the draft.

“That was the Bucs,” Graham said. “They were talking about (signing me as) an undrafted free agent, so in my head, I’m just like: ‘Wow. I might not get drafted.’ Then I’d go to undrafted free agency. Probably like 30 seconds after I hung up the phone, I got another phone call, and it was the Bears at this time.”

It was a fateful call for the Bears, who needed depth at cornerback. Graham gives them that with the potential to be the future at the position.

“Just not hearing my name called while seeing others around me get their name called. … Just the doubt made it the hardest part.”

Now, a few short months later, he’s settling in just fine in the Windy City.

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Graham Has Connection to Bears Starting CB Jaylon Johnson

Getting drafted by the Bears unites Graham with Bears second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who knows him well. They have played against each other for years now, and both are excited to finally be on the same team.

“High school, we were all competing against each other since high school, from the Nike Open, 7-on-7, things like that. Even in college we played Oregon every year,” Johnson, who attended Utah, said.

“Just battled against him and his team for years and years now. Just being able to be on the same team with him is definitely different and just being able to learn and grow together, I mean I was in his shoes last year coming in as a rookie. So just being able to help him out and already having somewhat of a foundation and knowing each other, I’m definitely going to take care of him the best way I can and give him everything that I know.”

Johnson also noted the rookie is off to a solid start.

“He fits in well,” Johnson said about Graham. “He plays with confidence. And he definitely has that swag to fit in the room perfectly fine. It’s just about learning and once you learn, your mind can be more at ease and then the physical aspect will come around for him. But we definitely know that he’s a playmaker; he just has to get comfortable.”

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