For a long time Jamoral Graham thought his nickname “Smokey” was because of how fast he ran.
He has, after all, run a 4.42 40-yard dash before, and he’s known for his elite speed throughout the Magnolia State.
But it wasn’t until a recent conversation with his grandmother that he learned the true origin of his nickname.
“People usually call me smoke because I smoke folks,” Graham said. “But when I was a baby my mom saw I was dark-skinned and she was like ‘I guess I’m going to call him Smokey.’ They’ve been calling me Smokey ever since.”
“Smokey” Graham is the second player to be named to The Clarion Ledger’s 2013 Dandy Dozen football team, a preseason list of the state’s top players. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound athlete from Newton County High School is the first football player from his high school to make the prestigious team.
“That’s the great feeling,” he said. “I figured I’d be picked, but it’s been a dream. That’s every little kid’s dream…to play football and become a Dandy Dozen. It is a big deal.”
Graham, who plays on both sides of the ball, accounted for 12 touchdowns last season, with 11 coming on offense. He also rushed for 495 yards and had 464 receiving yards.
Newton County coach Jackie Williamson plans to use him in a variety of ways this upcoming season, including some time as a Wildcat quarterback.
“He’s very multi-talented,” Williamson said. “He can play offense, he can play defense and he can be a kick returner kind of guy. He has great vision when he’s out there on the field.
“He’s one of the guys that can go the distance. When he gets the ball, something good is usually going to happen. We always have a chance to make a big play.”
He could excel at both, but it is rare to see a college player on both sides of the ball. Graham, who verbally committed to Mississippi State in May, would prefer to play offense, though the Bulldogs primarily recruited him as a defensive back.
“I look like I can play on either side of the ball, but I have great hands, great speed and great footwork,” he said. “I can get open in space and I can read a defensive player. I’d rather play wide receiver because it’s easier to run a route.”
Graham picked the Bulldogs after developing a close relationship with recruiting coordinator Tony Hughes. Mississippi State was the first school to start seriously recruiting the four-star prospect and has stayed in steady contact with him.
Other schools have tried to recruit Graham more fervently since he committed to MSU, but Graham likes the direction the Bulldogs are headed.
“The coaches showed me a lot of love,” he said. “I wanted to be closer to my family so they can come watch me play. Mississippi State is doing something special that no one knows about and I want to be a part of it.”