Big Red Report's Shane Gilster takes a look back at the recruitment of Keithen…
Aaron Graham was a three-year starter at center from 1993 to 1995 - not a bad time to play for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, as he helped them win two national championships.
The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Graham served as team captain, was a two-time first team All-Big Eight honoree and an All-American his senior year.
But Graham also excelled off the field. He was first-team GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American in the classroom, a CFA Hitachi Scholar-Athlete and a member of the CFA Good Works Team. He also received the highest honor bestowed on student-athletes, the NCAA Today's Top Eight Award.
Before arriving in Lincoln, Graham, a native of Denton, TX, had a successful career as a center for Denton High. A two-year starter who had 5.2 speed and benched around 360 pounds, Graham also handled the deep snapping duties.
For his efforts, Graham received all-district, all-area, and honorable-mention All-State honors from the Dallas-Denton area coaches. Even though he wasn't named on The Dallas Morning News Top 100 player list for the state of Texas, he had over 200 colleges contacting him. Teams such as Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech all vied for his services.
"For me, though, the decision came down to Oklahoma and Nebraska. Nebraska was about as far as I wanted to go to be away from my family, and Norman was only 2 - 2.5 hours from my house," Graham explained.
But distance didn't become a factor once he took his recruiting visit to Nebraska.
"I took a visit up to Nebraska, and I saw their freshman offensive line group that included Zach Wiegert, Brenden Stai, Rob Zatechka and Joel Wilks, and how they practiced and what they were about, and I knew at that point that's where I wanted to go," Graham said.
"But later when Coach (Tom) Osborne was in my living room, he asked me if I had made a decision yet. I said it is coming down to Nebraska and Oklahoma. He said he could make my decision a little easier. He said you could come to Nebraska and win with Nebraska or you could go somewhere else and get beat by Nebraska. Anybody who knows Coach Osborne knows that is not common with what I think you normally hear, but it wasn't arrogance, he was just being honest with me."
Only the second true center to have ever been recruited by the Huskers, Graham committed to Nebraska and redshirted in 1991. As a redshirt freshman, he backed-up Jim Scott at center, and then started at that position the next three years (1993-95).
Former NU offensive line coach Milt Tenopir once said of Graham, "Aaron is probably the best center I've had around here in 22 years, and the best college center I've seen playing today. He snaps the ball for punts in 0.7 seconds, which is extremely fast, and he never had a bad snap."
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