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Miami's Raphael Akpejiori making move from hoops to gridiron

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Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
Miami's Raphael Akpejiori spent the past four seasons on the Hurricanes basketball team.

Former Miami basketball player Raphael Akpejiori is attempting to follow in the big footsteps of New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and play football for the Hurricanes.

Miami has produced numerous outstanding football players, take a look at the top current NFL players to play for the U.

Akpejiori (6-foot-9, 241 pounds) played four seasons of basketball at UM as a reserve -- he scored just 97 points and had 128 rebounds in his career -- and now is trying his hand at football as a tight end. Akpejiori, a native of Nigeria, never has played football before (well, never played American football, anyway).

Like Akpejiori, Graham (6-7, 265) played four seasons of basketball at Miami before trying his hand at football. He played one season for UM, in 2009, when he had 17 receptions for 213 yards and five touchdowns. The Saints took him in the third round of the 2010 draft, and he is the best tight end in the NFL now.

Akpejiori (whose last name is pronounced AHK-peh-jour-ee) has practiced with Graham and with former UM star wide receiver Santana Moss, and also participated in 7-on-7 workouts with current Hurricanes players during the spring and summer.

"At first I was getting jammed a lot," he told reporters Tuesday. "I didn't know how to get a release. But I've been doing pretty well so far. I've been finding myself open a lot. I dropped a few balls, but I think I caught more than I dropped. It's been great."

Akpejiori certainly doesn't lack for confidence.

"I won an ACC championship as a basketball player (in the 2012-13 season), and my goal is to win one as a football player," he told the Palm Beach Post. "One day in the future, they can tell my story as a two-sport athlete at the University of Miami who succeeded at everything he did."

Interestingly, Akpejiori is the second player whose basketball career at UM ended in March to try his hand at football. Erik Swoope (6-5, 220) didn't have any college eligibility left and signed as an undrafted free-agent tight end with the Indianapolis Colts. Colts coach Chuck Pagano praised him Saturday: "For a guy who never played the game, he's picked it up extremely fast. You see the talent level out there on the football field -- the athleticism, the catch radius, the hands."

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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