Ex-NFL kicker Shayne Graham gives unique angle to MSU's special teams
Former NFL kicker Shayne Graham spent 15 seasons in the NFL with 10 teams, making a Pro Bowl and earning second-team All-Pro honors with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2005.
After retiring in February 2017, he knew his next venture had to have a competitive nature. Rounds of golf and traveling wouldn’t cut it. He had to make an impact, something he believes every person has the ability to do.
The result: coaching football. First becoming a quality control coach last season at Central Michigan University. And on July 26, he was promoted from special teams intern to special teams analyst with MSU football.
“I just enjoy having a risk, reward type of feeling and being a part of a winning or losing situation with football,” Graham said. “The risk, reward feeling is like a drug. And I like to feel like I have to do things right or I’m part of the problem, not the solution. And I want to feel like I’m part of the solution. So coaching kind of gives me that feeling.”
The Radford, Virginia native will assist special teams coordinator and secondary coach Paul Haynes, who admits he doesn’t “know anything about kicking.”
“This might be one of the first schools that I’ve been at that you actually have a guy who is a kicker, really tell me tools that I can coach these guys and do what they do,” Haynes said. “So I think that’s a huge plus for sure.”
Graham isn’t one of the 10 assistants allowed on staff, however, which limits his coaching ability on the field, head coach Mark Dantonio said. But his NFL experience, said Dantonio, provides the special teams a “sounding board.”
“He gets involved in almost every aspect, in terms of listening and watching,” he said. “And he’s growing as a special teams coach.”
As a “sounding board," Graham’s been involved with helping point out what special teams’ returns, coverages and protections can improve on. He also knows how NFL special teamers prepare, specifically kickers, psychologically.
Which so far has helped redshirt sophomore kicker Matt Coghlin, who’s a Cincinnati native and watched Graham when he was growing up.
“It’s what to do when you’re not in games,” Coghlin said during MSU’s media day on Aug. 6. “You know, drills without the ball. And then what to be thinking about on how to better do a kick, how to prepare better and stuff like that.”
Graham said although he doesn’t directly tell them, he puts forth a plan to the other coaches that the players can follow. Those plans involve prepping players for every situation, developing a comfort zone for those situations.
“And where’s I can’t technically coach them, they’re given certain aspects that they need to work on and make sure that all these situations that don’t catch them off guard, so they can build a comfort zone so nothing catches them or pulls them out of the comfort zone,” Graham said. “Because creating difficulties and creating situations that they may not be used to and to where they actually rep them, gives them a chance to be comfortable when those situations happen.”
Graham said he’s even learning how to coach by talking to Haynes and other coaches. He said while he gives a player perspective Haynes and other coaches, they’ve in return have been able to give him a coach’s perspective.
That helps Graham improve his skills on analyzing film, practice and how to go through a coach’s thought process.
“It’s been a two-way street,” Graham said. “They ask me for questions about certain aspects of what specialists do and their routines and their rep counts and all that. And I’m able to get information on kind of schematical things that they expect out of all the other players and what they expect of the kickers. And I just try to help them make sure that they’re able to let those guys prepare just like everybody else is preparing. By just taking their reps in practice and all that.”
Going through these processes, Graham has noticed this special teams group has had one thing: a positive attitude. Which, according to him, leads to small victories on and off the field.
“All those small victories start adding up and that’s how the help the teams by doing everything they can in their spare time, in their free time on the field when they’re not kicking,” Graham said. “They might be doing mental reps or something. They might be doing physical reps, whether they’re kicking a ball or not, they’re going through it in their mind.”
However, nobody has really stuck out to Graham so far. Not because special teams doesn’t have any good players, he said, but because it’s hard to point out anybody in live action of a game.
But what he does see is a group of guys who have a “will and want to” help the overall team.
“And that’s all you can really ask for are guys that have an attitude of wanting to do it,” Graham said. “And that’s the good thing about having these guys working hard, that these guys all treat it like they get to be here, and they don’t see it as an inconvenience. They see it as a privilege.”
For Graham, this helps him continue his passion for coaching. His passion for the risk and rewards feel he got playing on NFL Sundays, even if MSU hasn’t played a game yet in 2018 and that he’s “truly done nothing yet” in East Lansing.
Though as long as he’s coaching, he won’t “leave any stone unturned.”
“I work hard, I come in early and stay late,” Graham said. “And I do everything I can to make sure that I watch as much film and try to pick through as much things as I can when I’m watching practice. And trying to help out the other coaches as much as I can.”