By Jay Skurski
Willie Burnett joked this week that he "never, ever gets tired of talking about Corey Graham."
The former football coach at now-defunct Turner-Carroll High School has been elated to see the success of his star player.
You can read about Graham's journey to becoming a starting cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens in Saturday's editions of The Buffalo News, but here are a few quotes from Burnett that didn't make it into the story.
On his message to Graham at the start of his NFL career
"I said Corey, 'you got your foot in the door.' He got his start on special teams. Then one year led into the next year, and he’s like coach, 'when they going to give me a shot?'
'I said 'Corey, you just gotta ball out in practice.' Do what they don’t expect you to do. You’ve gotta play hard when you’re on the scout team. You gotta stand out, just like you did in high school, just like you did in college. There’s no difference. He had tears in his eyes sometimes when we would talk on the phone. I said 'Corey, just hang in there.' Everything’s going to work out for you."
On Graham's generosity
"Of course he’s playing professional football, you know they make good money, he always asks me, coach, you need anything? He looks out for me for me like I’m his dad. ... He's like, coach, you need a spot to train. I just tell him, 'you have a family, take care of yourself, take care of them.' Coach going to be ok. He just wants the best for me, just like I want the best for him.
People that have professional athletes in their family, people tug on them all the time, and I don’t want to be that person who tugs on Corey. He has enough people tugging at him."
On Graham's message to Burnett during games
"His first two years, every time he would make a good play, he would tug his facemask for me, to let me know, 'hey coach, I made a play.' We haven't done that the past few years, but I'm thinking of something for him to give me this week because he’s been playing lights out lately. A tap on the top of the helmet or something ... but that means I want to come out, so we may not do that one!"
On Graham's season overall
"I think right now he's probably the best cover corner they have right now. Corey was the next man up. He's playing his role. We've talked about this since the day he stepped into the NFL. ... He does still call me for some guidance and whatever I can give him I do. I expect nothing less from Corey this weekend other than a good game."