At the next level, Graves may just get the opportunity to settle in at one spot. The Purple Hurricane senior has signed to play football for Mercer University in Macon, where he will play receiver.
Graves had been on a few visits to the school and felt comfortable down there, in addition to being impressed by the school’s academics.
“I’ve been to coach [Bobby] Lamb’s camps the past few summers, and just everything down there just seemed nice. It’s a good school. I can get a very good education, and that was first and foremost in my priorities,” said the future engineer. “That’s where I wanted to go, and they made it happen for me.”
Frank Barden, Cartersville head football coach, noted that Graves has meant a great deal for his program over the years.
“He’s a great little athlete [with] great character. [He’s] very, very smart to go to Mercer, so [it’s] very rewarding of his efforts and his time that he’s put into Cartersville High School,” Barden said. “He’s got a lot of intangibles; he’s got a lot of the things that [are] just built in. That’s obviously shown on the football field and on the baseball field the way he pitched the other day in the second round of the playoffs.”
Barden made reference to Graves’ performance in a Game 2 win at Veterans High in Kathleen, where the Canes hurler pitched 6 2/3 innings with no earned runs and eight strikeouts.
Though he has experienced a great deal of success on the mound this season — including a 10-strikeout effort in a win at Dalton in March — Graves has no intention of reprising a two-sport role in college.
“I’m gonna try to do football, and then if baseball comes around and it’s just something I feel I want to do, I’m gonna try to do that. But, as of right now, my main purpose to go down there is to do school and then play football,” Graves revealed.
It would be one less transition for an athlete who is no stranger to making an adjustment.
After starting at quarterback to begin his junior season, Graves changed positions for the betterment of the team, he said.
“I’d grown up just playing quarterback and I enjoyed doing that, but it was one of those things where it was best for the team for me to play wide receiver, and honestly I think I just fell in love with playing wide receiver,” Graves continued. “It was a lot more fun, it was better for the team. I think it really just helped us out a lot. Having Tyler [Will] to be able to throw the ball to me, who’s not a bad quarterback, it kind of just helped our team better as an offense. … I think playing wide receiver is more for me, so I enjoyed doing that.”
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Graves spent a full year at receiver last season and acknowledged some growth in getting to learn the position for an entire year.
“I’ve only been doing that for one full year, but … I feel that has helped me more just because I’m seeing the field more. I felt like last year I was able to get the whole scheme of things, not just from one perspective as quarterback,” Graves said. “I got to watch a lot more and figure out … who’s gonna be open when, which plays work better. I feel like maybe with the mind that I have maybe I can help out a little more doing that.”
As he continues to improve as a receiver, Graves also will deal with the change of pace at the collegiate level, where he says the tempo will be faster and competition higher. “I’ve gotta get bigger, gotta get faster, gotta get stronger. … I just hope I can go down there, give it my best and just hopefully I can help them just as much as I can.”
His high school coach sounded like a man who expects his former player to do that and much more.
“He’s gonna go down and get a great education, and he’s gonna go down and I know he’s gonna work very hard at whatever he does and whatever he chooses to do,” Barden said. “I’m excited for him. I know Bobby Lamb. He’s a good friend of mine. For him to go down and be a part of that program, getting off to a [good] start, is very exciting for him, I know.”
Graves, who travels with the baseball team to Columbus for the state quarterfinals Tuesday, has thoroughly enjoyed his time in high school.
“Cartersvillle’s given me the best four years of high school I could ever ask for. I love this place, and I hope that one day I can give back as much as they’ve given me. This place is just completely awesome,” he added. “I’m gonna miss the coaches here, the atmosphere, everything. Coming to this high school, God has blessed with more than anything I could ask for.”