Football: Chiawana's Graff excels in family business

September 1, 2013 

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of eight profiles of Mid-Columbia Conference football players that will kick off the 2013 high school season. The Tri-City Herald will present one story a day until its high school football preview comes out Thursday.

It’s never easy being a coach’s son.

As people can imagine, there are expectations, pressures and a constant focus on the sport dad (or mom) coaches.

Grady Graff is here to tell people that it’s not like that, in his case anyway.

Sure, the Chiawana senior — a standout at linebacker and tight end — knows there are expectations and pressures on him. But most of those are self-imposed.

When you’re a member of the First Family of high school football in the city of Pasco, you learn to set your standards high. Because in a small community, things can tend to get magnified.

“You make even the smallest mistake, it’s definitely noticed,” Grady said. “It definitely keeps me out of trouble, though. I’ve got some high expectations of myself. And I’m pretty hard on myself sometimes.”

Take last season for example. Grady and his Riverhawks teammates were expecting to have a great season. But they lost their first three games, rallied a bit to make the postseason, then lost in the regional playoffs.

To him, that was unacceptable. And he and his teammates have been carrying a bit of a chip on their shoulders coming into this season.

“We showed that in camp, too. It’s been going on after the whistle a bit, but we’ve got that under control,” Grady said. “We remember the (Greater Spokane League) people saying ‘Oh, they’re just an MCC (Mid-Columbia Conference) team. They’re not tough.’ We’d like to prove people wrong.”

So the Riverhawks and Grady have a plan.

“We have team goals, and our expectation is to be the best 4A team in the state at the end of the season,” Grady said. “We feel we have a shot. As for me, I need to play well enough to get more noticed by colleges. I’m going to go play somewhere, maybe (NCAA Division 2) because I know I’ll have to walk-on.”

That’s OK, too, because Grady Graff has worked for everything he’s gotten on and off the football field.

He’s learned he’s had to share his father, Steve Graff, with the other kids who’ve played football with him over the years. His older brother Luc, and his younger brother, Mac, who is a sophomore on the Chiawana varsity this fall, also have learned that.

“I learned that from a young age too, when he coached my Grid Kids team,” said Grady. “He makes sure there is no special treatment going on. I might get my jersey first because I live with him. But other than that he’s pretty equal in his treatment of me and the guys on the team. And I like that.”

Grady saw how his father was with all of his players when he and his brothers were the ballboys for those Pasco High teams that won state football championships in 1998, 2000 and 2003.

It made him want to play for his father even more.

“I think I started in sixth grade (as a ballboy),” he said. “I always looked up to those guys on the team. I never thought I’d be there because they were so big. Now, I’m here and I look down at (Chiawana assistant) coach (Troy) Summerville’s son and see the same thing.”

Steve Graff and his wife, Dana, have the three sons and a daughter, Samantha.

Grady, Steve says, is a lot like him.

“Grady has got a good work ethic,” said Steve. “If I had 40 Gradys, I’d never lose. He wants to be better. He reminds me of myself when I was in high school. Same build, everything. If all three of the boys got in a fight, he’d come out on top. He’s got a temper like his dad. But if a fight happened, his mother wouldn’t be happy.”

Ah yes, Dana — the glue of the Graff family. She’s the one who keeps the family going at home. And it’s not all about football.

“When the kids come home from practice or a game, what goes on at practice or what goes on at a game does not carry over to the dinner table,” Dana said. “There is a time for Steve to be a dad and a time to be a coach. Steve agrees. We don’t have problems parenting together.”

There are other things to worry about at home, Steve says.

“It’s pretty normal at home,” he said. “Did you take out the garbage? Did you clean up the dog poop in the backyard? What do we have tomorrow? A dentist appointment? That kind of stuff.”

Dana says Grady is the go-to guy at home when a chore needs to be done.

But everyone agrees that football might become a short topic.

“Sometimes when something goes bad, Dad and I talk for 5 to 10 minutes. Then it’s back to normal,” Grady said.

It makes him laugh, because other people might think it’s nothing but football.

“That’s definitely the joke around my team,” said Grady. “They’re like ‘I’m sorry you have to go home to deal with (football things).’ ”

Then there are the competitive things.

“I don’t have a piece of furniture in my house that doesn’t have a tear on it,” Dana said. “All four of these kids, they use the furniture as end zones. Grady and Luc are always wrestling.”

Grady says there is a ping pong table in the shop that gets used a lot when Luc is home from college.

“And whenever buddies come home, it’s a circus,” he said.

You name it, the Graff kids find a way to compete against each other.

“We even have contests to see who can get mom to call them her favorite child,” Grady said.

That one hasn’t worked yet.

Dana says Grady is the child most like Steve.

“I get pretty emotional when they get to be seniors, because I feel they’re like ducklings falling out of the nest,” Dana said. “Grady is most like his dad. He’s very hard working. He’s very focused. You will not find Grady playing video games. He’s looking for ducks and geese in his spare time. I’m OK with that. I think that’s very healthy. All of those boys like to do those things. But Grady loves it.”

It’s what the Graffs do to get away from football and relax.

Grady, in fact, can see himself becoming a game warden some day.

“I use a tank of gas every week in hunting season, looking for places to hunt,” he said.

Even when it comes to hunting, Grady Graff puts in the work for it to be successful.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that he and the Chiawana Riverhawks should do well this season.

“Grady might not be the best guy or the fastest on the field, but you are not going to outwork him,” said Dana.

And that work is concentrated on one thing this fall.

“Even if I got a full-ride scholarship,” said Grady, “the only thing that would make me happy this season would be a state title. We would also be the first team champion at Chiawana.

“Yeah, that would be quite the accomplishment.”

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