Jimmy Graham waiting on retirement as he trains to row across Arctic Ocean

Graham sets sail in July 2025 for the 1,000 kilometer journey that he hopes will set a world record.

Jimmy Graham sounds like a man who’s retired and thinking about what’s to come in his post-football life.

The longtime NFL tight end told ESPN’s Katherine Terrell “he’s not sure yet” if he’s officially retired after posting a thank you video to the New Orleans Saints on Instagram in March. The 37-year-old Graham played six of his 13 seasons with the franchise, including 2023, which sounds like his last.

"I don't have any expectations," Graham said, adding if he does play again it will only be with the Saints. "I just want to make sure when I retire, it's as a Saint, and it's when they want me to. I'll just make sure I give them a call and see exactly when they want me to retire and then I'll end up doing it.

A five-time Pro Bowler and First-team All-Pro in 2013, Graham recorded two 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons and led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2013 with 16.

After sitting out the 2022 season, Graham returned to New Orleans on a one-year deal last season. He played in 13 games and scored four times.

Tight end Jimmy Graham played nearly half his NFL career with the Saints. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Getty Images)
Tight end Jimmy Graham played nearly half his NFL career with the Saints. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Getty Images)

Graham has already found a pursuit in this limbo between playing and retirement. He is currently training to take part in the Arctic Challenge, a 1,000 kilometer (621.3 miles) journey across the Arctic Ocean with three other team members in hopes of setting a Guinness World Record.

The current record is 15 days, 5 hours and 32 minutes, which was set in 2023.

Graham and his team will set adrift in July 2025 for a period of 10-21 days. Team members will sleep for 90 minutes at a time and row in two-hour intervals.

Former U.S. Navy Seal Andrew Tropp, 2021 USRowing's Female Coastal Athlete of the Year Hannah Huppi and 2021 bronze medalist in rowing John Huppi will join Graham on the journey. The former tight end is the "lead navigator" of the challenge.

It will start at Tromsø, Norway and finish at Longyearbyen, Norway. The group will use a 9.6 meter vessel that includes two cabins and is made of carbon fiber. They are expected to experience 24 hours of daylight.

One reason why Graham is doing this is to help with three nonprofits that support disadvantaged youth: Covenant House, the Jimmy Graham Foundation and Laureus Sport for Good USA.

“Using this challenge to inspire young people is very meaningful for me. As someone who has experienced homelessness, I recognize the importance of not letting your circumstances define your future,” Graham said on the Arctic Challenge website. “Through this challenge, we will showcase the power of determination, teamwork and resilience, and I am thrilled to use it as a platform for empowering kids to pursue their wildest dreams.”

This kind of adventure isn't unusual for Graham. He owns 10 different aviation licenses and is an avid cyclist.

While football might be in the past, Graham is already planning for his future, as he told Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan on his podcast in January.

"It just really gives me something to look forward to and something that athletically I can push myself in a new direction," Graham said. "And I don't have to take hits anymore. I can just sit there and just get to work."