Iconic movies like “Rudy” highlight a story we all love; the non-gifted athlete with a champion’s work ethic who ends up being rewarded for his efforts.
On rare occasions we get to see that special confluence where a skilled performer combines God-given DNA with the heart of a lion and the obsession of a master craftsmen. The result is Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice, and perhaps — Wesley Graves.
The GW senior running back considers running the football his “craft,” and he spares no effort in improving himself every chance he gets.
“I do good in certain things,” Graves said. “But my goal is to get better in everything.”
That desire plays out year-round.
“During the off-season I would do ladder drills in the morning. Run wind sprints at 4 a.m. Whatever it takes. Anything that I’m not good at, that’s what I want to work on,” Graves said.
The results have been clear. Graves leads the 4-2 Eagles in touchdowns and rushing yards, and is on pace to break some all-time school records.
GW Coach Nick Anderson says the leader of his prolific offensive attack is an ideal example for the younger players.
“Graves is a great leader. He works hard in the weight room. He works hard in practice. There have been times where I backed him out of scout team duty to keep him fresh. He doesn’t like that. He wants to practice,” Coach Anderson said.
Graves is about more than just numbers, but the numbers are impossible to ignore. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark last week with a 234-yard performance against Patrick County. That gives him 3,441 career rushing yards. The modern-day career rushing record at GW is 4,222 yards held by former Virginia Tech and NFL player David Wilson.
And then there are the touchdowns. Graves has been collecting them this year like chances in a 50-50 raffle. Through six games he has 23 touchdowns. That gives him 58 for his career. Wilson’s modern day-record is 59.
“David [Wilson] is the one I used to look up to. I’d watch his films, the videos he has on YouTube. It’s crazy to think he played right here,” Graves said.
Anderson says the big numbers he’s put up this year have done little to diminish Graves’ drive.
“Sometimes you have kids who are superstars who don’t want to give their best in practice. They want to save it for the game. Not Wesley,” Anderson said.
When asked about his 2019 goals, Graves says nothing about individual accomplishments.
“Our goal is to go all the way,” Graves said. He then smiles and turns to go to practice.
Just like a master craftsman.