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Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Jaeden Graham of the Atlanta Falcons is tackling Type 1 Diabetes

“Someone is outworking you” is a quote my baseball coach said in high school that sort of stuck with me. During my summers when I would wake up at 4:30 in the morning to get to the gym, and then to my finance internship by 6:30, and then out on the turf by 5:30 in […]


“Someone is outworking you” is a quote my baseball coach said in high school that sort of stuck with me. During my summers when I would wake up at 4:30 in the morning to get to the gym, and then to my finance internship by 6:30, and then out on the turf by 5:30 in the evening, then home, cook dinner and go to bed just to wake up and do it all over again, it can be really easy to let yourself sleep in, or let yourself off the hook by telling yourself you’re working really hard and that you deserve a little bit of slack. I wrote that quote down on an index card and taped it right above the doorknob of my apartment. Every morning at 4:30, when I was leaving for the gym, I would read it and say to myself “not today!”


As a part of my series about sports stars who are making a social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jaeden Graham. Jaeden grew up in Aurora, Colorado where he played football, baseball and track all throughout high school. He was recruited to college as an Outside Linebacker and did not play Tight End until his Senior Year. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Yale University while simultaneously receiving First Team All-Ivy League Honors and First Team All ECAC FCS Honors at Tight End. After graduation, Jaeden signed with the Atlanta Falcons after just one collegiate season at Tight End.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?

I have wanted to be a pro athlete for my entire life. When I was nine years old, I asked my parents if I could play football and immediately fell in love with the game. I was a Quarterback, but ended up switching over to Safety in high school after my coaches saw my physicality. Once that happened college recruiting kind of took off for me. I decided to go play Outside Linebacker for Yale, but experienced a couple injuries that really kept me out for my Sophomore and Junior year. My senior year I was moved to Tight End and had a great season, earning me a shot in the NFL which was just a dream come true for me.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

I had a couple internships in my Summers at school where I was an Equity Research Analyst, making buy and sell calls on certain stocks. One day in the Tight End room the guys were talking about a company and I just made a passing comment on it, but it got a lot of flak around the room. Eventually, just as sort of a way to tease the Rookie, the guys made me give a real stock presentation on the company. So I went back to my apartment after practice one day and whipped something up as fast as I could before heading downtown to our hotel. They ended up liking it so much that I got stuck doing one every night at the hotel before gameday. Pretty soon I had players from other position groups, and even coaches coming in for the presentations.

What would you advise to a young person who wants to emulate your success?

Always keep your goals in front of you. The going gets tough and you need to be able to keep your focus. I write my goals on my mirror so that I see them every single day.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

My dad has always been a major part of my life. He taught me my work ethic and instilled within me the belief in my own ability to accomplish whatever I set my mind to, including the most impossible of dreams like playing in the NFL.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

I have spent some time at the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta as well as presented to kids K-12 at schools around Colorado. I have also been involved with Fallen Patriots. The cause I am closest to however, is helping families affected by Type 1 Diabetes.

What methods are you using to most effectively share your cause with the world?

Going and speaking at schools and getting the kids to interact and participate in goal setting techniques. I am currently working to create a foundation to help families affected by Type 1 Diabetes.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

My brother was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was in high school and ultimately went on to play college baseball and even made it to the professional level. I went down to catch one of his games after my Junior year of college. At this point in my life I was dealing with burn out and lack of motivation as I had just missed two seasons of football which was very discouraging. Watching him play at the beginning of the Summer heading into Senior year is one of the biggest reasons I am in the NFL today. He has always been an inspiration to me and this cause is really in his honor.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

I know a coach with Type 1 Diabetes that was not taking care of himself and his condition when I first met him. In fact, I spent a whole day with him and had no idea he was Type 1, which I would have immediately recognized given all the time I spend with my brother. When he later found out about my efforts, it inspired him to take better care of himself. He decided to step down from his coaching position in order to focus on his health.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want to create an endowed foundation that uses the proceeds to give scholarship funding to Type 1 Diabetic Athletes. The costs of living with this condition are great and can put a serious financial burden on families. I do not want to see a bright, high school athlete unable to go to college because they cannot afford to pay tuition due to their medical expenses.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

“Someone is outworking you” is a quote my baseball coach said in high school that sort of stuck with me. During my summers when I would wake up at 4:30 in the morning to get to the gym, and then to my finance internship by 6:30, and then out on the turf by 5:30 in the evening, then home, cook dinner and go to bed just to wake up and do it all over again, it can be really easy to let yourself sleep in, or let yourself off the hook by telling yourself you’re working really hard and that you deserve a little bit of slack. I wrote that quote down on an index card and taped it right above the doorknob of my apartment. Every morning at 4:30, when I was leaving for the gym, I would read it and say to myself “not today!”

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to get lunch with Ray Dalio. He came and observed us during our preseason training camp. After my football career I plan to pursue my career in the financial industry, and I think Dalio would be an incredible resource.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring.

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