ASU’s Scottie Graham: A Story of Character

Talking to Scottie Graham always leaves me inspired and humbled. He’s one of those rare individuals who approaches everything he does with heart, integrity and determination. It’s no surprise that Ray Anderson recruited Scottie to join the team at Arizona State University shortly after he became the school’s Athletic Director.

Life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives. ~ Jackie Robinson

Scottie is ASU’s Senior Associate Athletics Director where he oversees nine sports: Baseball (Men’s), Basketball (Women’s), Golf (Women’s), Golf (Men’s), Soccer (Women’s), Tennis (Women’s), Track & Field (Men’s & Women’s), Water Polo (Women’s) and Wrestling (Men’s). In addition to his ASU family, Scottie is a loving husband to his wife Mary and devoted father to their two children Mylek and Marika.

Scottie Graham Mary Graham ASU

He has a gift of connecting with athletes and a pro career that is a testament to his success. Scottie played seven seasons in the NFL with three teams, including the New York Jets, the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals and was the 1993 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award. Before joining the NFL, Scottie was a three-year starter and team captain at Ohio State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Education/Sports Leadership and later while with the Vikings received a Master of Arts in Black Studies. Prior to joining ASU Scottie was the Director of Player Engagement for the NFLPA.

While his career accomplishments alone are enough to grab a young athlete’s attention, it’s Scottie’s passion, real talk and heart that cause his message to resonate.

People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel. ~ Mary Angelou

“I understand how to talk to young athletes. If you are phony or disingenuous, or you are not real, they smell it and they just don’t trust you. I don’t judge people and having kids I have had plenty of opportunity to test my material when talking to them to see how they respond to it,” says Scottie. “I approach each athlete differently. The big mistake people make is by trying to treat all young people the same, and you can’t do that, they are all different. They are all special and it’s my job to adjust to them.”

Scottie Graham ASU

How does he do that? Scottie makes the students the priority. “I let them know I care by showing an interest in what they are doing.” He meets them where they are and makes their schedule his schedule. On a typical day he will meet a soccer player in the training room, then head to golf practice, stop by study hall, hit a stretching session for tennis and then head to cross country. In between all that he’s meeting with students helping them navigate school, sport and life.

Aristotle believed, “The ultimate aim of human life and activity is development of character.” Abraham Lincoln went on to say, “Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree.”

Nurturing the character of the students is an integral part of Scottie’s job and a key part of the mission of ASU. “You get to meet a Russell Wilson in college as a talent and have the opportunity to help in his development for a pro football career. It’s amazing the level, focus and integrity you see in young people.” Think about it Scottie says passionately.

Passion. “You can’t bottle that,” Scottie says. In college they are playing for the love of the game and are open to listening.” His genuineness ensures that those listening receive and trust his message. Part of that message is that character is much more than just what we try to display for others to see, it is who we are even when no one is watching.

“Another thing that I teach the student-athletes is persistence,” says Scottie. “Doing your best every day, not just in their chosen sport, but in their everyday lives. This will not only make them better players but also make them better people.”

Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American research university, creating an institution that is committed to excellence, access and impact. ~ Michael Crow, President ASU

The word character comes from the Greek word “χαρακτήρα” and was a term originally used to describe a mark impressed upon a coin. Today, it means the sum of all attributes in a person such as integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty and loyalty. Scottie Graham is part of the ASU team leaving its mark on student-athletes. Character.


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