May 29, 2012

Grant came close to walking away

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"I got to a low point where I was like I didn't want to play anymore... I did (think of quitting), I am not going to lie, I did."

That is not what you would expect to hear from the former No. 2 nationally ranked recruit from the class of 2011 only a year removed from being the crown jewel of his recruiting class.

But that is exactly how Ohio State linebacker Curtis Grant felt during his true freshman campaign. It was not exactly the year that he had hoped for after being buried on the depth chart, not making the two deep for a good part season and coming in with all the praise in the world after being an all-star performer coming out of Richmond (Va.) Hermitage high school.

"It was hard for me because I always played ever since I was six and coming in and not playing was just kind of depressing," Grant said.

"Grant had everything you wanted coming out of high school -- size, length, lateral quickness, toughness, instincts -- you name it," national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "He was the kind of kid who looked like a college linebacker already."

The look of a college linebacker may not have been the best thing for Grant coming out of high school. In Grant's recruiting profile he was listed at 222 pounds but that is not the weight he checked in at to Ohio State.

"When I left my high school I was probably about 250 and I actually jumped from 230 to 250 in like two months because I thought I was going to need to be big for the Big Ten and that is another downfall because I came in overweight," Grant said.

After playing in the season opener against Akron in 2011 the heralded freshman did not play in the next three games and saw the gap widen between him and the rest of the linebackers who were in the mix.

"College is just different coming in from high school and you are playing and doing great things and you come up where everybody is great, not good," Grant said. "I had competition in high school but competition is college is nothing compared to that."

Grant dominated the competition at the high school level en route to climbing to the No. 2 recruit spot nationally after tearing things up at the U. S. Army All-American game.

"When I saw him live during his senior season, he was all over the field and made nearly 20 tackles and carried his team on defense," Farrell added. "He could shed blocks or be skinny in the hole, whatever you needed. Simply a physical freak."

So with all the press clippings and awards for Grant he could have easily walked away from the game that he played almost all of his life, but he didn't. There were too many forces at work in his life that wouldn't let him.

"I got over it and I kind of got my confidence back up and I started talking to my parents and my family a lot more and reading the Bible and I knew it was going to be okay," Grant said.

Grant was able to rely upon his family, teammates and friends to get through the rough times. Becoming a better football player is one thing but without the support system in place the growth as a football player will not come.

"My family is just so supportive and coaches and (my) friends here, I know I could do it," Grant said. "It was just a big reset for me so I just decided to get myself together and work hard in the offseason."

Many players struggle making the transition from high school All-American to college starter.

"I think sometimes kids think too much at positions where instincts are key and I think that could be the case with Curtis," Farrell said. "When he goes out and simply reads and reacts and doesn't try to predict or guess what's coming but rather reacts to it, he is unstoppable."

Grant has had a lot of people in his corner and even head coach Urban Meyer has voiced his approval of the linebacker's progress during the short six months that he has been around him as a head coach.

"It is a big motivation just to know you have your head coach behind you and it makes you want to work harder," Grant said.

Meyer is not the only Buckeye to take notice of Grant's rededication after a bad start to his Buckeye career.

"Curtis is doing great and he is constantly in there working really hard and you can't get him out of here, he is always in here so it is good to see," fellow linebacker Etienne Sabino said of Grant's work during the spring and current offseason conditioning.

And what about coming into Columbus at 250 pounds? That is a thing of the past as well for the sophomore-to-be.

"Coach (Mickey Marotti) got in here my body changed and I went from 250-something to like 233 within a month just from the hard work and the stuff he had us doing and us coming out here and competing," Grant said.

I did (think of quitting), I am not going to lie, I did.

- Curtis Grant on his struggles as a freshman

Now several months removed from a near life changing decision the thought of quitting football seems to be a foreign thought and now only serves as a life lesson to Grant.

"I couldn't do it, I love it too much. As coach always told me, 'you have been playing this game since you were little so don't let something so small take away something so big', so I just got my act together," Grant reflected. "I never felt like that a day in my life when it came to football because the game is just so natural to me and it was always something that I had done ever since I was knee-high to grass. I just got my life together and became more confident and knew it was just football."

And the 2012 depth chart already gives evidence of Grant's success with his name sitting prominently on the top of the chart at the middle linebacker spot.

"He'll be fine once he goes out and lets it rip and thinks less and hits more," Farrell said. "It's okay to slow the game down sometimes and sometimes it hurts your game. In this case, the faster the better for Curtis. But whatever happens I am fully confident he will give 100-percent whether he's second string or first-team All American."


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