Joe Graves rejoins ULM football staff as Tight Ends Coach

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MONROE, La. – Joe Graves, who served as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator at Georgia Southern in 2021, has returned to ULM as tight ends coach under second-year head coach Terry Bowden. Graves previously spent three years at ULM from 2018-20, including the last two seasons as running backs coach.

Under his watch in 2021, Georgia Southern’s NaJee Thompson was named Pro Football Network First-Team All-American as a special teams player. Thompson played a team-best 154 snaps on special teams.

In addition, Anthony Beck II, who ranked second in the league in punting his 44.3-yard average, earned All-Sun Belt Conference Second-Team honors. His 17 punts inside the opponent’s 20 tied for the conference lead.

As a team, Georgia Southern finished third in the Sun Belt in net punting with a 40.0-yard average, with only two touchbacks.

Under his tutelage at ULM, Josh Johnson emerged as one of the Sun Belt Conference’s elite running backs. Johnson, who made his National Football League debut in 2021 with the Seattle Seahawks, closed out his collegiate career ranked among ULM’s all-time leaders in rushing average (fourth at 5.48 yards per carry), rushing yards (12th with 1,688) and rushing touchdowns (12th with 16) and rushing yards per game (seventh at 56.3 ypg.).

In 2019, Johnson became ULM’s first 1,000-yard rusher in 20 years, finished second in the Sun Belt and 13th in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing, averaging 108.2 yards per game. His 1,298 rushing yards ranked as the fourth-highest single-season total in ULM history. An All-Sun Belt Second-Team selection, Johnson recorded seven 100-yard rushing games, tying the second-best single-season mark in school history.

“Joe Graves is a high-energy coach and an outstanding recruiter,” Bowden said. “His offensive line background gives him great perspective as a skill position coach, and he’s leveraged that to be successful everywhere he’s been. His deep Louisiana ties give us an in-state recruiting a boost, especially in Baton Rouge and on the Northshore.”

“I’m honored and grateful for this opportunity to return to ULM,” Graves said. “I’m honored to come back to Monroe to work with Coach Bowden, who has achieved about as much as a head coach can at the collegiate level. It’s also humbling to become linked to the Bowden family. That last name is synonymous with success and championships when you look at coaching records his late father Bobby, his brother, Tommy, and his very own.

“Matt Kubik is a special offensive coordinator. His offense has been scoring touchdowns since the first day I met him. In 2018, he found unique ways to get the ball in the hands of Marcus Green, who put up ridiculous all-purpose numbers. And in 2019, ULM ranked among the Top 20 in total offense and featured record-setting players at three different positions: Caleb Evans at quarterback, Josh Johnson at running back; and Josh Pederson at tight end.

“It’s very exciting to be reunited with Matt and John Carr. Not only are those guys great football coaches, but they’re even better people. We all want to be here to help Coach Bowden create a consistent, winning program.”

Graves previously served as a graduate assistant at ULM in 2018, working closely with former offensive line coach Eman Naghavi.

The Covington, Louisiana, native came to ULM following two seasons as running backs coach under Ron Roberts at his alma mater Southeastern Louisiana.

In 2017, SLU led the Southland Conference and ranked third in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in rushing, averaging 283.1 yards per game. The Lions also finished second in the league in rushing touchdowns with 27. A trio of running backs – Marcus Cooper, Eugene Bethea and Darren Johnson – combined to rush for 1,813 yards and 12 TDs.

In 2016, Julius Maracalin earned second-team All-SLC honors after finishing fourth in the league in rushing, averaging 67.9 yards per game. Maracalin, who led the Lions with 747 rushing yards and eight rushing TDs, closed out the season with three-straight 100-yard games.

A three-year starter on the offensive line for the Lions from 2013-15, Graves became one of the most-decorated student-athletes during Coach Roberts’ tenure. He garnered All-SLC honors in each of this final three seasons (honorable mention, 2013-14; second team, 2015) while helping SLU win back-to-back conference championships in 2013 and 2014.

In addition to his production on the field, Graves was a three-time Southland Conference All-Academic and a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection. He also was named to the FCS ADA Academic All-Star Team as both a junior and senior.

Graves received a Bachelor of Arts in history from Southeastern Louisiana in May 2016.

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