The last time former Stephenville standout Josh Graves caught a pass in a game, it was in the 2008 4A Division II state quarterfinals.

A lot can change in three years.

Graves, an all-state pick by both the Associated Press and the Texas Sports Writers Association his senior season, has become a college student, a full-time worker, a husband and a father since he last donned pads and a helmet on game day.

Graves is now adding to the list of titles he's taken on since high school. Now, he's a college football player. Again.

Graves left Stephenville for Canyon, where he red-shirted for a season on partial scholarship at West Texas A&M. But after a year of handling life's curveballs, he was one of 37 freshmen to check in at Centennial Hall on the Tarleton State campus Wednesay morning.

At 10 a.m. today, he will be one of 100 Texan football players beginning preseason training camp.

Graves believed when he left Stephenville for WTAMU that he was making the best decision for his football career.

"They run a spread offense a lot like our high school offense was," he said. "They were like 70 (percent) pass, 30 run, it's a great offense for a receiver to go into. It was also a chance to move away from home and be out on my own."

Graves enjoyed his redshirt year at WT until the coach who recruited him, former Tarleton assistant Scott Parr, left for Texas Tech in the spring of 2009.

"Coach Parr left, then we had the little one, and that all led to me coming back here," Graves said.

The little one is Jaxon, the almost nine month old son of Graves and his wife Kylyn.

Graves returned to Stephenville to be closer to family, but he says WT head coach Don Carthel refused to sign his release papers.

"He wouldn't release me to Tarleton because they're in the same conference," he said.

So Graves, who is employed by FMC, sat out a year. But that didn't mean he let himself slowly fade away from game shape.

"I've been working out, doing a lot of conditioning, keeping myself ready," he said. "That, and I've talked to some of my old (high school) coaches to keep me motivated."

Stephenville coach Joseph Gillespie contacted Tarleton head coach Cary Fowler, and that set the wheels in motion on Graves eventually landing with the Texans.

"I'm excited for him," said Fowler. "He's got a load to shoulder. He lost his dad then he became one himself. He's a husband a student and a worker. That's a lot for anybody to handle. Add football to that, and I don't know when the kid's going to sleep."

But Graves, who credits his wife Kylyn for making a return to football possible, says he'll find a way to make it all work.

"Kylyn is sacrificing a lot, sometimes too much," Graves admits. "But we're willing to do what we have to do to make it work."

Fowler says Graves is athletic enough to get looks at other positions in addition to receiver.

"He's kept himself in good shape and he looks great," Fowler said. "We're going to work to find the best spot for him to help this team.

"I'm pulling for him," Fowler added. "Sometimes you pull for kids and they don't make it, but I would never bet against a kid who has been through the things Josh has and handled them as well as he has."

Graves just wants a chance to compete again.

"I just feel like I left a lot on the table, that I still have a lot to give," Graves said. "I still have that competitive fire and it burns deep inside me."