100 Years of Champions

#100Pac12 Alumni: Taylor Graham

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As part of the Pac-12’s Centennial celebration, the Conference is highlighting Pac-12 student-athlete alumni who have had tremendous success off the field of play—in their careers and in their communities.

Taylor Graham 
Stanford Men’s Soccer ‘02
Senior Director of Business Operations, Seattle Sounders FC

Stanford soccer alumnus Taylor Graham spent nine years playing professional soccer before taking on the sports administration world as the Senior Director of Business Operations for the Seattle Sounders FC. In the midst of all that, Graham has consistently given back to the community and now serves on the Board of Trustees for Make-A-Wish of Alaska and Washington.

While at Stanford, Graham got his undergraduate degree in Spanish and International Business, earned his master’s degree in Sociology, and played five years of collegiate soccer. He came to Stanford as a walk-on and eventually worked his way up to starting every game in his last two seasons and helping take Stanford all the way to the NCAA College Cup. 

“Everything I love about sports and the game of soccer, I found at Stanford,” Graham said. 

Graham’s time as a student-athlete was occupied not only by sport and school, but also by involvement in the community. His coaches encouraged the team to get involved and he recalls going with his teammates to visit children while they were in the hospital.

“How we carried ourselves throughout the community was something we all took pride in as Stanford student-athletes,” Graham said. 

When Graham came to Stanford as a walk-on, he had no plans of making soccer a career path, and really didn’t see him self in the business world either.

“When I came to Stanford I thought I was going to be a math major. In soccer, I thought maybe I could play a game, or maybe two the next year. I never thought I’d start every game,” he said. “I’ve found that it’s better to let things come to you instead of you going to it.”

Graham did end up starting every game, and eventually became a star for the Cardinal as they competed for the NCAA College Cup. Graham went on to play professionally in Kansas City, Seattle, and New York—in his words, he “let the ride of sports do what it will.”

While he was playing professionally, Graham noticed he had free time that he hadn’t had as a student-athlete. He started filling that time with more and more community involvement. Graham says he was raised with the idea of giving back ingrained in him, and as a professional athlete, he felt that it was his responsibility to do as much as he could for those in need.  

“I’ve always been a ‘passion guy,’” Graham said. “It comes down to this gut feeling inside that it’s the right thing to do.”

Through his community involvement as an athlete, Graham was introduced to several people on the business side of professional soccer, and started to think about the myriad career options that awaited him when his playing days were over.

After nine years of professional soccer, and an abundance of community service, including being named the Seattle Sounders FC Humanitarian of the year in 2009, the “ride of sports” seemed to have ended for Graham. But he wasn’t quite ready to leave the soccer world. So, instead, he accepted a role as the Senior Director of Business Operations at his former club, Seattle Sounders FC. 

“I had always been intrigued by business—by analytics and numbers and operations,” Graham said. 

In Graham’s role at the Sounders, he oversees loyalty programs, game presentation, youth camps, game operations, and also manages relationships with supporter groups.

“I get to touch a lot of different aspects of the business we run,” Graham said. “It’s my job to make sure everyone is connecting the dots.”

Along with former Stanford teammate Roger Levesque, Graham also oversees community outreach for the Sounders. He says this is one of the most important of the many hats he wears, and he loves being able to leverage the game for the good of the community.

The non-profit closest to Graham’s heart is Make-A-Wish, where he sits on the Board of Trustees for the Alaska and Washington chapter. Graham’s first involvement with Make-A-Wish came when he was an athlete with the Sounders in 2009. A little boy wanted to be a super hero for the day so they made him “Electron Boy” and he saved the team from being locked in their locker room with the power off. From then on, Graham was hooked. 

Some of the Sounders’ other community programs focus on providing free and reduced lunches in the Seattle area and promoting soccer and literacy through poetry. Graham says the kids he works with like poetry because there are no rules. 

For Taylor Graham, sports have always been a vehicle for doing what’s right. From his days visiting children in the hospital while at Stanford, to his standout community service as a professional athlete, to his role overseeing community outreach for the Seattle Sounders FC, Graham has always put the good of the whole before his own aspirations. 

“Sports are an outlet for passion,” Graham said. “In sports, you have to let go of your personal ability to evoke change and just support people on an emotional level. There are highs and there are lows, but that’s life.”

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