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Creative with varied interests

Bucs backup running back Earnest Graham can do more than run the ball and cover punts. He's a businessman with an ear for music and a soul that produces poetry. Graham discussed topics such as his forays into the clothing and music industries to Emmitt Smith's victory on Dancing with the Stars.

So you're quite the entrepreneur. What's the story behind that?

I have a clothing store back home in Fort Myers called City Boys Clothing. We sell urban clothes, shoes, sunglasses, you name it. It's going well.

What's the big seller?

It depends. Shoes sell pretty well. Any time there's a big event coming to town, people will come in looking for new clothes. We sell anything from Girbaud to Sean John. We started up about six months ago. My friend and I wanted to do it, and then this building became available. We thought it was a great spot, so we decided to take a shot at it.

Sounds like you're pretty business-minded?

I am. But you know what? I'm more of an idea person than a technical person. I'm a brainchild. I sit around and think. And I study everything from sports to how things work in the business world. But I have a business partner. He and my wife balance it out real well. Both of them are very technical. They go out and crunch the numbers and do the things I don't really like to do. Me, I do a lot of thinking. And I read a lot. I'm a creative person.

You also are starting up a record label, right?

Yes, I have one act right now. It's a rap group. A guy from Tampa and my younger brother, Brandon. The group is called the City Boys. We've been doing it about a year, and it's going pretty good. But we're still in the beginning stages.

What's the vision?

Well, you want it to grow, of course. I'd love to be a successful independent record label. Something in the mold of Slip-N-Slide records, who put out Trick Daddy. They're a big independent label.

What's harder: the music business or fashion industry?

Definitely the music business. You have to be careful. And it's very expensive to get into it. In the clothing business, you just have to be in the right spot. And in Fort Myers, there's not that much competition. In music, everybody wants to rap. And everybody thinks they can rap. You have to be good to make it. It takes a long time for people to just notice you. But it's like anything else in business. If you have a good product, it will sell. It's all pretty similar.

What got you involved in the music business?

I've always been interested. Even when I was little, I played the piano. I've always been a fan of every kind of music. Anything from Tupac to Guns N' Roses to Dave Matthews Band to Gnarls Barkley. I listen to everything. I'm a music fanatic. And I have to be because in the business, I'm on the creative side.

You're a former Gator, and you've met Emmitt Smith. Did you watch him on Dancing with the Stars?

I just watched the last episode. I thought it was a trip. He's impressive to be able to get up there in front of the whole nation and be this football player who dances. And he was good at it, and he had personality about it. I really enjoyed watching him. I wish I had watched more of it. I couldn't imagine myself doing it. I'm sure he had a blast.

You used to wear a shirt under your jersey with a poem on it. Can you explain why?

When my friend (Corey Jordan) died years ago, I put my thoughts down and I wore them on my shirt. I write a lot of poetry. That's something I enjoy. It was something I felt like I had to do. He was a guy who was very special to me. We were very close. He was a colorful person. No matter what was going on, he could get people to open up.

Actually, the day he died, I was upset with him. I had worn this tight shirt to school, and I thought I was cool. He made fun of me in front of the (high school) auditorium saying, "Man, that shirt is so tight it's gonna make your head explode!" And I do have a big head. So I got mad, and I was mad at him the whole day. At the end of the day, he caught me walking down the hall and told me, "Hey, man, you know I love you." Then later that night, I got the phone call.

You've always had huge numbers in the preseason. Does it bother you not to get much of a chance during the regular season?

It doesn't matter. I have a blast in the preseason. I've come a long way. At one point when I graduated from Florida, we didn't have a place to stay. I didn't even know where I was going. But I got back on my feet, and here I am. So I go out there and play hard and have fun. I'm blessed, and I'll never complain.

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