TOM BEAN — As a leader of the Tomcat defense Kaleb Graham knew he had to be in the right position in the middle of the unit.

Whether it was coming up to make a play near the line of scrimmage or having an impact when he dropped into coverage, Graham was able to contribute to consecutive playoffs appearances and help get Tom Bean headed in the right direction.

It is that same mindset Graham wants to carry over into his college career as he signed to play for East Central University.

“I always wanted to play college football but it always seemed like some distant thing,” he said. “Two years ago I would never have thought it would happen but here it is happening.”

He chose the Division II school over the University of Texas-San Antonio and Austin College.

“I had a difficult time time picking a college because I didn’t think there would be many interested and then I heard from seven or eight and five of them offered,” Graham said. “After visiting there and getting a feel for the coaches and everything, ECU was what I wanted.”

Graham led the Tomcats with 107 tackles, notched a sack and intercepted three passes as Tom Bean tied for second in the district standings, went 4-7 and made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2003-04 before a bi-district loss.

On offense, he was the team’s leading rusher with 194 carries for 908 yards and six touchdowns and 13 catches for 105 yards after moving from receiver.

Graham was a first-team all-district selection at running back and inside linebacker.

As a junior, Graham shared the district Newcomer of the Year honors with Collinsville’s Jake Boswell. He was second on the team with 25 catches and four receiving touchdowns and was third on the team with 364 yards as the Tomcats went 5-6 with a bi-district loss.

He spent his first two years of high school playing for a home school team before enrolling at Tom Bean.

East Central went 3-8 this past season both overall and in the Great American Conference. It was the second straight 3-8 campaign for the program, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2015.

Sherman’s Tyson Jones was a senior for the Tigers this past season.

“A large majority of schools said I’d be successful as a safety or linebacker. Linebacker was a definite at ECU,” Graham said. “I want to go and be redshirted. I want to adjust to college, get familiar with the defense before jumping in there.”