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Graham Back for Second Stint with Bandits
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February 10, 2005 - Sioux City, IA-Jason Graham couldn't bring himself to attend any Sioux City Bandits football games last year, watching others do what he believed he could have done.

After two years of life minus the Bandits, the 6-foot, 225-pound running back impressed new head coach Jose Jefferson during a recent tryout. Graham ran the 40-yard dash in a sharp 4.5 seconds. He had 15 consecutive bench presses of 225 pounds.

Best of all, Graham showed no signs of the ACL injury he suffered during the 2000 season.

"I wondered if I had lost anything," said Graham, who was among five players introduced during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Tyson Events Center. "But I didn't lose a step. I've been working out, staying fit, trying to get stronger. I feel confident."

Graham is confident he can return to the form that saw him rush for nearly 1,000 yards in three seasons. He still holds a Central Missouri State University record for seven consecutive 100-yard rushing games.

Jefferson believes the injury is buried in the past and should stay there.

"That time (running the 40-yard dash) he had was great for the surface," Jefferson said. "His agility looks good. I don't think he lost a step. He's hungry and he wants to win. He wants to be the guy.

"I remember coaching my first game in 2000 against Sioux City. Holy cow, it was like a fight and a football game broke out. He was quite a back. We had great defensive backs and great linebackers in Lincoln, but still, he was getting four, five yards a pop and taking people with him."

Graham adds to the Bandits' running back depth. Last month, speedster Dave Perrigo was signed after missing the 2004 season.

Perrigo had a combined 31 all-purpose touchdowns as a running back, wide receiver and kickoff returner during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

The 26-year-old Graham, who spent the last two years working as a press operator with Smurfit-Stone Container Co. of Sioux City, is looking forward to the competition.

"I have blazing speed and I make people miss," he said. "At the same time, I can run you over. I can catch out of the backfield and turn a five-yard catch into a 50-yard gain.

"Competition brings out the best in anybody. Perrigo, he has speed. I'm going to do what it takes. When game day comes, I'm going to be in that lineup."

Spetlar Tonga, a 6-0, 230-pound linebacker, signed after playing five games last year with the Bandits. Dave Nelson, a 5-10, 180-pound wide receiver who played with the Bandits in 2003, signed after spending last summer with the Northwest Iowa Bruisers of the National American Football League.

The Bandits also signed rookie defensive backs Adam Lloyd (6-1, 220) of Morningside College and Keith Chapman (5-11, 197) of Upper Iowa University.

In addition, the Bandits also signed three players who weren't in attendance at the press conference, including 6-1, 215-pound quarterback Jarrod DeGeorgia, who passed for 4,900 yards and 56 touchdowns during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

DeGeorgia will face competition from 6-2, 220-pound Willie Simmons, a backup quarterback from the 1999 to 2002 seasons at Clemson University.

Rounding off the list of signees is Anthony Thomas, a 6-2, 330-pound defensive lineman who graduated from the University of Arizona in 2001. Thomas has never played indoor football, but did get pro experience with an invitation to the 2002 Washington Redskins training camp.

The Bandits now have 17 players under contract. An additional 18 are expected to be signed before the start of training camp, Feb. 25.

*This article courtesy of Jerry Giesel, Sioux City Journal

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