INDIANAPOLIS – During an afternoon when diversity in NFL organization was recognized, so too was the Graves family.
With his father's name attached to awards given to minority scouts and his mother there to help present awards, Cardinals general manager Rod Graves was honored himself Friday at the annual Fritz Pollard Alliance ceremony, receiving the Paul "Tank" Younger award for work in the area of promoting minority opportunities.
It was the second straight year a Cardinal was so honored. Owner Bill Bidwill won the award in 2010.
Graves, who started as a scout with the Chicago Bears in the early 1980s, admitted he never thought he would have reached the position he now holds.
"My father (Jackie) always instilled within me a basic philosophy of just working hard and trying to do things the right way, and let the rest of it take care of itself," Graves said. "I was never focused on a level of achievement or certain position. I've just been blessed to be around people who were fair and gave me an opportunity."
Jackie Graves was called one of the men "who started it all," said Falcons scout Bob Harrison, one of two scouts to receive his plaque from Willie Graves – Rod's mother.
Younger, a one-time NFL star and the first African-American executive in the league, was actually close friends with the Graves family. Jackie Graves worked in the personnel department of the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I am deeply honored to be among the class of recipients that have gotten this award and I am particularly thrilled to get an award in the name of Tank Younger," Graves said. "Tank represented a lot to the African-American community. We all aspired to be where he was."
Past winners of the award include former coaches Tony Dungy and Bill Walsh, Steelers chairman Dan Rooney and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.
"(Rod) has honored the tradition of diversity and opportunity that has carried on throughout the Cardinals organization." Alliance chairman John Wooten said.
Younger was a four-time Pro Bowler as a running back for the Rams and Steelers from 1949-1958. He was the first minority front office administrator in the NFL with the Rams after his playing days and then became the league's first African-American assistant general manager when he was named to the position in 1975 with the San Diego Chargers.