By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
Derwin Graham's future college head coach really wanted to talk about the Copperas Cove standout distance runner during Wednesday's National Signing Day festivities.
He even stood at the podium and mentioned Graham - though not by name - and said how excited he was for his newest addition.
But the coach didn't - Graham was keeping it secret for just one more day.
So on Thursday at the YMCA Family Center in Cove, the two-time state qualifier in cross country made his announcement, unveiling a Baylor shirt from under his hooded sweatshirt after younger brother D'Anthony picked up a Bears hat.
"It feels good to finally just let everyone know where I'm going," said Graham, picking the Bears over Texas A&M and Arkansas. "I took the time out to visit every single aspect, every single college, just to get every view and not just pick Baylor because of my dad."
The connection with his father, Derwin Graham Sr., and the Bears made the day's decision even more special. Even mom got into the act - Sheirice Graham wore her husband's old Baylor green-and-gold track jacket.
"I'm very happy," said Graham Sr., a six-time All-American with the Bears. "My wife - she kept me under wraps for a whole year, telling me not to persuade him or try to convince him to go to Baylor."
Graham actually had his mind set on Texas A&M until one last trip to Waco a few days ago. The plan was to just watch the Baylor runners go through their practice and visit with coaches, something he's done numerous times before. That included head coach Todd Harbour, who held up on the news the day before.
But after catching up with everyone, the feelings Graham had for Baylor since childhood quickly came back.
"I just fell right back in love," he said.
In all, Graham, who will also run the steeplechase in college, had 36 offers from schools ranging from service academies (Air Force and Navy) to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
He took official visits to Baylor, Tulsa, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Georgetown and Sam Houston State.
During the process, which kicked off after Graham won the 2,000-meter steeplechase in April at the 83rd Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, Graham Sr. did his best at being impartial and allowing his son to decide for himself.
It wasn't easy - Derwin Graham is already a famous name at Baylor.
Graham Sr. was a four-year letterman (1983-86) for the Bears. He helped start a tradition the program is best known for - the 1,600-mile relay. Graham Sr. ran the second leg on the 1985 NCAA champion mile relay, the program's first.
Since that run in 1985, the Bear's mile relay has earned 10 more outdoor national titles and helped produce three future Olympic gold medalists.
"Well, it's not really big shoes to fill," Graham said. "It's just starting my own legacy, but his is right there too."
The legacy even traveled with the Grahams during visits to other schools. Coaches knew all about his father's record.
"They actually brought it out - 'Hey, this guy is Derwin Graham. He's an All-American at Baylor," said Graham Sr., who was honored as a part of the relay team the week before Graham made his Class 5A regional track debut as a sophomore. "And I'm like, 'Ah man.' So the parents are getting excited and then other recruits are getting excited."
Graham said: "We wanted that to have nothing to do with me going to Baylor at all. We wanted it to be the place I wanted to be, whether it be Georgetown, Baylor or Texas A&M."
The former point guard - Graham gave up basketball this year to focus on running - heads into the spring looking to defend his 1,600- and 3,200-meter district titles with hopes of reaching the 5A state meet.
He'll defend his steeplechase title at the Texas Relays, where he ran away with last year's crown.
"Just get ready to run across the finish line in first place throwing up the Baylor Bears sign," Graham said.
Contact Angel Verdejo at email@example.com or (254) 501-7564.