At first thought, the idea seems a bit irrational. Here you have a quarterback who in the last two years has thrown for 50 touchdowns, passed for almost 5,000 yards and led his team to 20 victories in 21 games, yet somehow lacking notoriety.
Such is the curious case of Tim Graham.
The Darien High School quarterback has done all of the above, and then some. Graham and his Blue Wave teammates will face arch rival New Canaan in Thursday’s Turkey Bowl game that will decide the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship. Beating the Rams for the second consecutive year in the FCIAC final might increase the attention the 6-foot-4, 185-pound senior garners, but probably not. And that’s just fine with Graham.
“I don’t care about that,” Graham said, “as long as we are winning.”
That mindset also works just fine for Darien coach Rob Trifone.
“It does seem Timmy get lost in the shuffle a little,” Trifone said. “Maybe if it wasn’t for (New Canaan quarterback Michael) Collins, Timmy would get more notoriety. Collins is so good. But that’s OK. I think under the radar is a good place to be.”
Graham has thrown for 2,069 yards and 26 touchdowns with just one interception while completing 73 percent of his pass attempts this season. The lone pick was on a Hail Mary on the final play before halftime in a 48-7 victory over Wilton on Oct. 30.
But no doubt Graham has played in Collins’ shadow the last two seasons. The New Canaan senior has also led his team to a 20-1 record since the start of last year but gained a measure of revenge for the loss in the FCIAC final when the Rams beat Darien in a state championship game last December. And Collins has tossed an incredible 46 touchdowns to go with five interceptions in eight games this year.
But there are other factors that have led to Graham going slightly unnoticed in FCIAC circles the last two years. There is tremendous talent all around him on offense, led by Colin Minicus, Shelby Grant, Christian Trifone and Hudson Hamill. And the defense – the starting defense – has allowed just 17 points all season. The other 74 points allowed have come in the second half, mostly against junior varsity players, after the Blue Wave had built huge leads.
The varsity offense has seen limited action on the field because of all the blowouts, which may also be a factor in Graham’s underrated status. Graham and the other starters played in the second half only twice: the third quarter against Greenwich and the whole way against Staples.
That’s not under the radar; that’s OFF the radar.
“(The lack of notoriety) is OK, it just motivates me more,” Graham said. “I just strive to be the greatest quarterback I can be.”
That was obviously the mentality Graham followed after last year’s disappointing one-point loss to New Canaan in the state final. Last year Graham, who has verbally committed to play at Bryant University next fall, threw 24 touchdowns but had 14 interceptions, which preceded this year’s 26/1 ratio.
“The difference between this year and last year is night and day,” Trifone said. “Timmy has always had the tools – great arm, great athlete – but last year he was learning how to read defenses, and that’s not easy in this league. He spent so much time looking at tape and it really helped.
“In our last game (a 27-0 victory over Staples), Timmy was throwing into a stiff wind and it was as if it was a calm day. He threw it with the same completion percentage and accuracy he had all season. I turned to one of my coaches in the fourth quarter after he made a nice pass and said, ‘Wow, I’m impressed.’ ”
The improvement from last year was evident right from the start this season. In barely 20 minutes in the season opener against Stamford High, Graham completed 18 of 20 passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns, connecting with 10 different receivers.
“We have a lot of depth at receiver and that makes my job a lot easier,” Graham said. “But reducing turnovers was my goal this year and I was able to do that. It just seemed as if everything slowed down this year for me. I can see everything better. I can read it better.”
And, like his teammates, Graham can remember better, too. No doubt the start of Graham’s growth this year as a player began last December in the loss to the Rams in the state final.
“Our motto this year was unfinished business,” Graham said. “That one loss negatively affected our season greatly. Right after that game ended I started preparing for this season.”
“That loss affected us a lot,” Trifone added. “A, it was for the state championship; B, it was a one-point loss; C, it was to our arch rival; D, they came from behind to beat us. That loss stung all offseason. I told them we were still a 12-1 team and FCIAC champs. They said it felt like we were a 1-12 team. I think Tim and all the other seniors took it personally and raised the bar this season.”
The season won’t end Thursday for either team, as both have qualified for the state playoffs, although Darien has moved up to Class LL while New Canaan remains in Class L. So there will be no second chance for the loser.
And no second chance for Timmy Graham to stand side by side with Michael Collins on the football field.
“Mike is a very good quarterback, but I’m not playing against him, I’m playing against the New Canaan defense,” Graham said. “I know all eyes will be on him, so it’s a great opportunity for me to steal the day.”