A walk-on at Kansas State, Jon McGraw began as a fourth-string quarterback, was moved to wide receiver, and wound up finding a home at safety, where he was a starter his last two seasons.
And after being chosen by the Jets in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft, he'd find a new home in New York.
"My agent gave some indicators of what teams were looking for safeties and might be looking about the time that I was projected to go. And so I had an idea," McGraw said. "But the Jets weren't on my or his radar at all. I was pretty shocked when I got the call.
"I'd never been to New York before, hadn't been much out of the Midwest. And New York seemed like a really obviously big place and very different from where I had grown up. But once I talked with Terry Bradway, the GM, and Herm Edwards, the head coach, I was super excited to capture a little bit of their vision for where the team was going and my potential role."
Playing mainly as a nickelback and on special teams as a rookie, McGraw collected his first interception in Week 14 against Denver, when with less than two minutes left, he intercepted Brian Griese's pass at the 2-yard line, and helped preserve a 19-13 win.
"The Broncos got the ball for the final possession and drove all the way down, and we had a certain call covered," McGraw said. "I got credit for the play, but we had a really great re-route from a linebacker, James Darling, on the slot receiver that I was in a zone coverage over the top of.
"And we got great pressure from the D-line that forced Griese to throw the ball a little early, and he ended up throwing it almost right to me. I was able to make the catch and seal the game. It was a tremendous feeling to be able to get the first interception in a really meaningful game and at a crucial part in the game, as well."
McGraw opened the following season as the starting free safety. And while the Jets began with a disappointing 0-4 start, things unfortunately got worse for him in the fifth game, against Buffalo.
"Travis Henry was a good strong running back for them, and he broke free and got a good head of steam," McGraw said. "And instead of just trying to get him down, I tried to get hit him a little too hard. It was a good collision, but my right shoulder took the brunt of it and I felt it dislocate right away.
"I was able to come back in and finish the game, but really, without my right arm. I tried to rehab it for a few weeks and came back against the Colts and dislocated it again. I could just tell it was too unstable to try to play on it. So unfortunately, I had to go on IR and have surgery. I was able to rehab from that one and come back bigger, faster, stronger, going into my third season in '04."
McGraw's fourth season would be elsewhere. The Jets traded him during training camp to Detroit for a seventh-round pick in the 2006 Draft.
"It was something that my agent and I had requested," McGraw said. "So they were just going through the process of trying to get the best value for the trade. The surprise was that I was going to Detroit. There'd been some other teams that were talking about being interested in the trade that I thought I might be going to. Detroit sort of came out of the blue last minute and offered a little bit more for the trade.
"One day I'm a Jet, that night I'm flying to Detroit and I'm a Lion. And then turn around and come back two days later for our preseason game against the Jets. I'm on the opposite sideline and in the opposite locker room, that was quite a quite an experience. I think everyone was a little bit shocked by how quickly it happened. But I hugged a bunch of the guys and let them know how much I appreciate them."
With the Jets for three seasons, McGraw appreciated that time and has many fond memories.
"A lot of firsts. My first game as a Jet against the Bills for opening day. That was the season right after 9/11, and President (George W.) Bush came on over the jumbotron and gave a very patriotic speech. Stealth bombers flew over. I've never been so amped up for a game," McGraw said.
"So from the first NFL opening day, to the first interception, and then the first Monday Night Football game against the Raiders and Jerry Rice and Tim Brown and Rich Gannon. But I think the best memories are just the time that I got to spend in the locker room with some of the guys that I developed really close relationships with, like Kevin Mawae and Kevin Swayne and James Dearth. And getting to meet and play for coaches like Herm Edwards, who I loved playing for."
A Lion for two years and a Kansas City Chief for five, eight defensive backs were selected before McGraw in the 2002 Draft, but only two would play in the NFL longer.
"I had a lot of injuries throughout my career, but I retired primarily because of concussions," McGraw said. "I was concerned about my long-term brain health. I was studying traumatic brain injury and CTE and looking for all the variety of ways that we can heal our brains and actually help our brain heal themselves. It introduced me to a lot of the different theories and concepts and modalities.
"And wanting to try and benefit as best I could to provide for myself and my family, I was fortunate to meet my business partners in roughly 2013, 2014. They were in the process of building out a mindset training program. I got to be introduced to it, kind of as an advisory at first and one thing led to the next, and I was a partner and then co-founder."
The business which McGraw co-founded is Vision Pursue. Based in Overland, KS, they consult with both sports teams and corporate teams.
"It's a combination of overall health wellness, well-being, and elevating that, while at the same time, elevating performance," McGraw said. "And what we routinely see is that high achievers, those who are really trying to go out and be their very best and make a big impact in the world, oftentimes struggle with managing the stress that goes along with that. The distractions and maintaining focus.
"We developed a 10-week program. It's a combination of live training with a mobile app that delivers daily practices and teaches them the theories and the concepts. But then also gives them daily exercises so that they can get the benefit of being able to perform at the highest level, but also enjoy a lot of the process and journey along the way."
The father of two: Lawson, 15; and Leighton, 13; McGraw and his girlfriend, Lauren Lawrence, make their home in Kansas City.