A Football Journey Back, After An Interruption

From the Truman Sports Complex

How many players are attending rookie mini-camps around the National Football League this week that are 26 years old, hold both bachelors and Masters degrees along with a national championship ring, have opened and sold a successful restaurant and have never before been part of an NFL team?

His name is Terry Grant, former University of Alabama and Canadian Football League running back and for the first time in his football career, he’s working with an NFL team. He’s one of 36 tryout players in the Chiefs rookie mini-camp that continued on Saturday.

“It just feels wonderful to be out here and part of a team again,” Grant said after Saturday’s practice. “It was 17 months since I’ve been on a football field, so it’s a great feeling to be back.”

Quite likely Grant is the oldest player among all the rookies taking part in NFL rookie camps across the league this weekend. His story is a remarkable one, especially considering that in 2007 he was Alabama’s leading rusher. That was the first year of the Nick Saban Era, and Grant ran for 891 yards on 180 carries for 8 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. He was chosen to the SEC All-Freshman team along with teammate Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson, both later first-round NFL selections.

The future appeared bright for the 5-9, 190-pound native of Mississippi.

That’s now six long years ago. From that point to his weekend at the Chiefs facility, there have been many twists, turns and detours in his football life. Three years after leading the tide in rushing Grant was out of Alabama, out of football. He was hanging around Kansas City; he stayed with former Crimson Tide teammate Javier Arenas and pondered what to do with his life. He had a bachelor’s degree in Youth Development and a Masters degree in business management. He and his sister had opened a restaurant in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

But football never left his heart.

“You start playing when you are about this high,” said Grant, holding his hand at waist level. “If you are still playing into college it’s because the game means something to you. It’s part of your life. I didn’t have that, and I didn’t have anything to replace it.”

Coming out of Lumberton, Mississippi, Grant was a 3-star recruit after his huge senior season where he ran for 2,615 yards and 36 touchdowns. He finished his high school career with 113 touchdowns, just two less than the state schoolboy record.

He played in the 2006 season with the Tide under head coach Mike Shula and the staff that recruited him, but he went down after 3 games with a sports hernia and eventually was granted a medical redshirt season. Shula and staff were fired and that brought Nick Saban in as head coach.

By the time he came back in 2007, Grant was healthy and the Tide was in transition under Saban. That opened up a chance for Grant, and in the second half of that season he became a major offensive force for Alabama, staring 9 of the 13 games and producing 917 offensive yards.

Then in 2008, he suffered another sports hernia, which is best describe as a rupture of muscles in the lower abdomen. It’s an injury that makes any sort of football movement painful, even impossible. That led to another surgery, his second.

It also led to his being passed on the depth chart by names like Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. The coaching change didn’t help matters as he was a Shula guy, and now Saban was running things. In the 2008 season he was the team’s fourth leading rusher with 88 yards on 35 carries. The next season the Crimson Tide won a national championship and Grant was again the fourth leading rusher with 166 yards on 40 carries.

Due to the medical redshirt, he had one more season of eligibility for the 2010 season. Already owning with his bachelor’s degree, Grant started work on a Masters and made a decision about football – he was done.

“I just didn’t want to do it anymore,” Grant said. “It felt like the love for the game was gone. I didn’t think they needed me and I wanted out.”

“I was OK walking away at that time. The game is over for certain people at certain times and I thought it was over for me.”

He did not play the 2010 season. In the spring he finished up his Masters and then in the fall he hung out in Kansas City with Arenas. It was in K.C. that he met trainer Mark Williams and began working out with him. Slowly, he felt better physically than he had in years and just as slowly, the absence of football bothered him.

“I was here watching Jav play for the Chiefs and I was watching other guys that I had played with who were in the league,” Grant said. “I was 22, 23 years old at the time and I thought there was no way that I was done with football. So we trained and trained and trained to get better physically and I got back.

He sought an outlet and took part in Alabama’s 2011 Pro Day. That earned an invitation to a CFL combine workout and when no NFL teams showed any interest, he ended up signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the 2011 season.

That time north of the border started very slowly, as he again was unable to get on the field. But when injuries piled up for the TiCats, Grant got his chance and over a 4-game stretch he produced 438 all-purpose yards and 4 touchdowns, including an 89-yard touchdown run.

Then, another detour – he broke three bones in his right leg and foot and suffered a dislocated ankle when he landed awkwardly after a routine running play against the Alouettes in Montreal. Television replays showed Grant’s twisted foot pointing in the wrong direction, with teammates frantically calling for the medical staff.

“I tried but just couldn’t watch it — it was like feeling the pain all over again,” Grant said of the injury. “When it happened, I couldn’t even roll over to have a look at my foot but I thought it had to be missing from all the pain I was feeling. I saw the guys waving and I thought ‘Yeah, it ain’t good.’ ”

It surely was not good as the injury brought a halt to football, a stoppage that did not end until the Chiefs rookie mini-camp. He had surgery a week after the injury in November 2011 and then returned home to rehab. “They told me it would be a nine-month injury, but that wasn’t true,” Grant said. “It was more like 12-14 months.”

Grant tried to play on the injury in the 2012 season in Canada but he couldn’t get healthy enough to get activated, so he left Hamilton in early fall and returned home. He noticed the injury was not improving, so in February 2013 he had his second surgery on the ankle. He ended up returning to Kansas City and training again with Williams. The Tiger-Cats released him in January.

He began his workouts with Williams and started feeling strength coming back to his right foot and ankle. He made a phone call to agent Bus Cook, who made some phone calls to NFL teams to make them aware of Grant’s status. It worked out perfectly for him when the Chiefs expressed enough interest to provide him with a chance to tryout this weekend.

So far in two mini-camp practices, Grant has shown no lingering effects from the injury. “It feels good and I’m just trying to stay on top of the offense,” Grant said.

The mini-camp practices do not include contact and are not always the best way to judge a football player. But Grant has shown the quickness, speed and change of direction skills that he displayed six years ago in Tuscaloosa and two years ago in Canada. Despite his small stature, he showed a willingness to hit the runs up the middle. He can catch the ball and he was making noise as a kick returner during that season in Canada before the injury.

Grant knows he is fighting the odds. Sunday and/or Monday figure to be important days for his NFL football future. If the Chiefs are interested they’ll indicate that pretty quickly and offer him a contract as a free agent. If they aren’t interested, maybe another team will be.

Six years of waiting has taught him something about watching the clock or anticipating the ring of the phone.

“I’m confident that I’ve done what I can at this point,” said Grant. “I would certainly enjoy being part of this team. They picked up the phone and listened. I’d like to make it work here.

“Whatever happens, I’ll find a way to deal with it.”

2 Responses to “A Football Journey Back, After An Interruption”

  • May 12, 2013  - johnfromfairfax says:

    Good luck kid. This will be a great story if he is able to make the team. Bob, thanks for another intriguing and in-depth story on a potential Chief. These are worth a subscription alone, even without all the other information you provide. You know your craft and are a professional, not just another voice.

    Is it just me or do we have quite a few guys with compelling stories this year trying to become part of the Chiefs future? It should be a truly interesting year and I have to hand it to Clark Hunt and the organization. They have taken steps to make meaningful change and certainly have my interest heading into the season.

  • May 12, 2013  - St Paul 1 says:

    I agree – he’s obviously a long shot, but it seems like the Chiefs have gone for some high-character guys this year, including Grant. Let’s hope some of them make it.

Get the Flash Player to see the slideshow.


Other News