William & Mary’s modest leader will be heard from after his college career ends!
I first met William & Mary’s Jonathan Grimes this summer at the CAA Media Day in Baltimore, MD. I approached him for an interview and he openly welcomed the opportunity, sitting down with me for 15 minutes or so.
Covering the Washington Redskins beat the last few seasons I had very little time to keep up with college football outside of watching games late Saturday nights.
Preparing for the 2011 CAA Media Day, I did my homework and knew Grimes was one of the players I wanted to interview.
Grimes entered the 2011 season ninth on the all-time CAA all-purpose yardage list for a career (5,445 to start 2011), and had the potential with a solid senior season to climb into fourth place behind players like Villanova’s Brian Westbrook (9,512), New Hampshire’s Jerry Azumah (8,367), and Massachusetts’ Marcel Shipp (7,759). The three not only made their mark in the CAA, each had very productive NFL careers.
Right from the start of our conversation Grimes was impressive. I was honest with him and explained that I had very little knowledge of his playing career and the CAA conference. I asked him if he would provide some background. Like Guy Yovan pitching an unnecessary, but must-have electronic device on the Home Shopping Network, Grimes sold me right away on the brand of football I can expect and the quality of every team in the CAA.
I was interested in discussing his records and the potential of reaching the heights of three successful CAA/NFL players. Grimes didn’t want to go there. He was aware of the records, but steered his responses toward what William & Mary hoped to achieve this season.
I thought to myself, this guy is going to impress the hell out of NFL GM’s and scouts if he gets the opportunity to attend the NFL Combines in Indianapolis, IN in 2012. Not only did he say all the right things, but he did so without hesitation.
He was so well-spoken and positive about everything William & Mary and the CAA. Mature beyond his years, he was far ahead of many of the NFL players I’ve interviewed in locker rooms.
He gets it! He understands his role as a leader extends beyond his play on the football field.
Naturally, I’ve watched his production closely in 2011 with a curious eye. Although he’s put up some decent statistics, he hadn’t had a Jonathan Grimes season.
Both Grimes and the Tribe offense stumbled into last week’s game against a strong New Hampshire team with their season on the line.
This would be the first time I would get an opportunity to watch Grimes play. He did not disappoint!
Accumulating 323 all-purpose yards on the day, Grimes became the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards and moved into fourth place on the CAA’s all-purpose yardage list with 6,733 total yards for his career.
With William & Mary sitting at 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the CAA entering the New Hampshire game, the playoffs started with the seventh game of the season for the Tribe.
Must win games are when team leaders step up their play. Against New Hampshire, Grimes literally carried the offense on his shoulders. Accounting for nearly 70% of the team’s total yards and two spectacular scoring plays, he willed the Tribe to a 24-10 victory on this day.
Following the game, as I awaited Grimes to complete his CSN TV interview, I noticed a huge gathering of Tribe fans surrounding the entrance of the locker room. Many were there to congratulate the team on their play, but all stood by to wait for Grimes to finish his interview.
As he entered the tunnel of Zabel Stadium, Grimes took the time to shake the hands of those who waited so patiently long after the game had ended.
“He is as genuine a person you will ever meet. What you see is what you get with Jonathan,” Tribe Coach Jimmy Laycock said.
Post game Grimes was asked why was today so different for the Tribe’s offense? The humble young man who just broke several team and conference records responded on cue, “The offensive line was the key today. They had so much fire, and I just fed off their energy.”
Even on his day, after giving four years of blood and sweat for the green and gold. Maintaining the grades required by a school with the academic rigors of a William & Mary. Years of pulling his beaten body out of bed to attend classes or complete assignments. On this, his record-setting day, when he became the all-time greatest runner in school history, he gives credit to others.
I know the NFL is far from his thoughts – we discussed this issue during our conversation in the summer – but if there is any one individual I have met during my coverage of college and professional sports deserving of an “opportunity” to be a representative of the NFL as a player, it is Jonathan Grimes.