Fully Engaged: Curtis Grant Thinks This is the Year

By Kyle Rowland on April 17, 2013 at 9:30a
Locked and loaded.

Curtis Grant is entering his junior season as Ohio State’s starting middle linebacker. No surprise, right? When you’re the top-rated player at your position coming out of high school and the No. 2 overall recruit in the country, earning a starting job is practically a brithright.

But Grant took the scenic route when he arrived in Columbus. Through two bumpy years, it appears that he has finally discovered a smooth surface. Grant was elevated to starter status last year. It feels far different in 2013, though. It feels real this time.

A year ago, Grant was still grasping life in college football. He wasn’t confident and his tentativeness showed in September, when he was quickly sidelined for his unimpressive play on the field. One year later, Grant is starting to show glimpses of that can’t-miss prospect that electrified the high school football fields of Richmond, Virginia. He’s now immune to the pressure that was once paralyzing.

“People expect so much,” Grant said. “But they don’t understand that college football is a lot different than high school. You’re not the biggest guy anymore, you’re not the fastest guy. You have to get up with the competition.”

Even while he was still in high school, Grant had a frame that looked more WWE than FBS. At 6-foot-3, 241 pounds, he was destined for success the moment he enrolled at Ohio State. Much hoopla surrounded Grant’s arrival, but his freshman season consisted of special teams duty, though a touchdown in the dramatic last-minute win over Wisconsin provided an uplifting moment. An early benching during his sophomore season was even tougher to deal with.

“That’s where the maturity level comes in,” co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said. “Can he respond? He didn’t. That’s probably what he didn’t do a great job of last year.”

“It knocks your confidence down and your passion. You don’t know how to adjust.”

Said Grant, candidly: “I got complacent. I couldn’t handle the glory of being a starter. I should have kept working harder.

“I was real mad. I didn’t know what to do. I would just sit back and watch, and I wasn’t used to that. It knocks your confidence down and your passion. You don’t know how to adjust.”

Time alone allowed Grant to refocus. When he came back to Ohio State in January, Grant knew he wanted to be a contributor and lead a defense that lost nearly its entire front seven. The lone returner – Ryan Shazier – happens to be Grant’s study buddy. The roommates create time each night to go over game film. That rededication has spurred a growth in Grant’s football IQ.

“Instead of going out all the time, I’m either in the house watching film or calling Coach (Fickell), asking if can he help,” he said.

Despite being a bust his first two seasons, Grant was not abandoned by Ohio State’s coaches. If anything, he was embraced. The reclamation project began in earnest on March 5, when the Buckeyes took to the practice field. Asked if the coaches still had hope for Grant, Meyer, somewhat bewildered, responded emphatically: “Absolutely.”

But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t an underlying sense of urgency. Meyer, Fickell and Grant were all aware of the stakes. A passion for the game, which Grant claimed he lost, had to be present. It became his now-or-never moment. 

Under intense scrutiny and a microscope that witnessed his every move, Grant no longer looked like the guy that was supplanted in 2012 by a fullback and someone who wasn’t even on the team when the season began. It quickly became clear that Grant’s best days were still ahead of him.

“You man up or get out. I manned up,” he said. “Your junior year, if you don’t do anything, there’s no guarantee there’s another year to do it.”

Curtis Grant rocks Philly BrownGrant led all defenders with eight tackles at the spring game.

Throughout the spring, fans heard passages about the linebacker with which so much had been expected. But it wasn’t until Saturday in the spring game that they saw it with their own eyes. Grant finished with a game-high eight tackles, including one sack of Braxton Miller.

Weather reports indicated 21 mile per hour wind gusts at Paul Brown Stadium, but it can’t be ruled out that it was actually a collective sigh of relief from more than 37,000 people.

“He solidified (his starting spot),” Meyer said. “He’s a fully engaged player this year.”

And it’s a good thing, for Grant’s sake. With Ohio State’s recruiting methods, another trip behind the 8-ball could signal game over. A player that describes himself as “determined,” Grant unearthed a level of maturity that wasn’t present until visions of his junior season illuminated.

No more partying, no more scoffing at schoolwork and no more lack of dedication to football.

“Everybody matures at different times, and it’s not his lack of ability,” Fickell said. “It’s just having some confidence, the ability to let loose.”


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CanadianBuckeye's picture

That is what I love about college football over the NFL, two down years, two years of failing to meet expectations and he still has a shot at redemption.  He is coming back on pure passion and love of the game now, that doesn't happen at the pro level in my opinion.  Much respect to Curtis Grant and all football players who are willing to fight for what they were expected to be handed to them.

chubler's picture

Exactly. And this is why I love the Big Ten's recruiting practices over the SEC's. At LSU or Bama, he probably would've been "encouraged" to transfer or leave the team, if he didn't have his scholarship pulled outright. Regardless of who they cheer for, anyone in the country should be able to give props to OSU and Urban for putting in the personal, face-to-face time and effort to get this young man back on track to live up to his enormous potential instead of simply moving on to the next hotshot recruit. Well done.

-1 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture

Great comments canadianbuckeye and chubler.
WELCOME TO THE TABLE CURTIS!  We've been expecting you...

buckeyedude's picture

Better late than never. Kids learn at different speeds, and this was probably Grant's issue, I'm betting. I cut him some slack. I think this is going to be his year. Once he makes some big plays, his confidence will skyrocket. Not suggesting it will definitely happen, but it's possible he could have a better year than Ryan Damn Shazier, once his confidence gets going. He's a physically gifted speciman.
Is that El Guapo that he leveled in that GIF? Holy crap!
update: after second look, said player came off the left side, not out of the backfield. He's too small to be Hyde.



Earle's picture

Philly Brown.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

buckeyedude's picture

Copy. Thanks Earle. I can't see those small pictures without my reading glasses. Sucks to get old.



dan_isaacs's picture

No, it was Philly Brown.

Dan Isaacs

Basso Profondo's picture

That was Philly Brown

Squirrel Master's picture

Plus Hyde didn't play in the spring game!

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

buckeyedude's picture

You're right, Squirrel. No need for him to. We know what we got with El Guapo. A young man that may not be flashy and just goes about his bidness.



Firmthyfriendship's picture

Yeah, love that GIF. I love it for two reasons:
1) Grant just homes in on him and the collision is just sweet!
2) Corey Brown is one tough dude to hold on to that.
This is one tough team! Go Bucks!

nickma71's picture

I don't think so. So much for wrapping up players and tackling them. Watch out, or this year will be another repeat of bad fundamentals on tOSU defense. I sure hope not. I don't need to see anymore TD's like last year when that turd Denard Robinson scored because two players hit him, and didn't wrap up. They were more concerned with a sports center highlight and "baptising" somebody.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Baby steps, brother, baby steps.
Last year, Grant would not have been in the right place at the right time to have any chance at making that play on the receiver. This spring, he reacted just in time to race to the receiver and lower his shoulder on him. Hopefully, come mid-season this fall, he'll react yet another split second faster and can not only lower the boom but wrap up at the same time.
In other words, he's about 80-percent of the way to being able to apply "leverage" on the receiver/ball carrier. If gets above 90 percent, he could be a monster. 

Earle's picture

I'll give you another reason to love that GIF.  Did you notice how wide open the field is when we run 5-wide?  Lots of room for Braxton to run if he wasn't wearing the black jersey and working on the passing game. 
I know everyone is excited to see the diamond formation, and so am I.  But I'm also looking forward to seeing the Buckeyes spread out the defense like this and turn Braxton loose.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

Citrus's picture

Seems like some self doubt crept in. He was ready to give up but stuck with and now will be amazing thanks to the assistance of a great teacher. I think I saw that in a movie once.


buckeyedude's picture

Yoda is a wise man, ...er whatever. He speaks truth.



Firmthyfriendship's picture

"But that team up north's not afraid!"
Yoda: "They will be. They...will...beeeee!"

tennbuckeye19's picture

When Brady Hoke is hungry, he channels his inner Yoda.
He's been known to say things like "A bacon double cheeseburger I want"...

Oyster's picture

Post of the day, simply because I read it in my Yoda voice!

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

Hello_Heisman's picture

When 900 years old I reach, post this much....I will not.

60% of the time it works.....every time

Oyster's picture

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and speak for the entire forum, we all hope you are 899 years, 11 months, 30 days, 23 hours and 59 seconds old right now ; )

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

FROMTHE18's picture

dude has all the physical tools, but he still has a ways to go to reach his full potential...lets hope he continues to push himself off the field and gets better on it as fall practice eventually begins and our season kicks off...if he can come around fully, he and shazier will be an unreal LB duo.

Hovenaut's picture

Wasn't so long ago the questions about how the linebacker corps would be bolstered. The unit absolutely needed Grant, really pleased he's responding.
All for the best talent taking the field, but it's an absolute difficult transition from high school to college - on and off the field.
He sounds focused and putting forth the effort, eager to see the return on investment. We've seen what he and RDS can do individually, it's going to be a thing of beauty for them to work in unison locking down the middle. Great write up on Curtis Grant, starting middle linebacker.
Now the questions shift to right tackle....

osubuck57's picture

If he can be anything close to Shazier,our front seven will be on lock-down beast mode!!Looking for big things from him this year.He has everything to prove with the back-ups and freshmen we have coming in.Hope he turns into the dominant LB we all thought he should be!!


Defend Youngstown's picture

Grant looked really good in the spring game. Once he gets a few games under his belt I think he is going to really blossom.

txbucknut's picture

I can't tell you how excited (and relieved) I was to watch Grant during the spring game and see him involved and around the ball every play he was in. The other thing that was clear is that this guy is a beast!, and can hit! Very happy that he seems to have gotten his confidence back and hoping for big things from this guy for the next two years at Ohio State and beyond. 

AllDay028's picture

Does it feel real this time?
I'm still extremely skeptical.

Ashtabula's picture

It kind of feels like a coaching staff and a fan base giving false praise (please don't cite 8 tackles in a pass happy spring game) with the hope it provides motivation because they realize how important the LB position is to this team's success.  I'm praying that it works, but am saving some prayers on Mitchell or Johnson. 

wside buck's picture

That clip isn't really that great and is kind of a blown coverage. He needed to hand off the deep receiver to the safety and cover the underneath zone.

Buckeye06's picture

Didn't he need to cover that receiver until he got out of his zone at the same time?  I mean he kind of had the receiver, then let him go after he left his zone
Not saying you're wrong, but to me it looked like he read it better than you think he did

rdubs's picture

He could have wrapped up better, but I think the coverage looks fine.  I would rather him stick with a deep receiver a tenth or two longer to avoid a deep pass and give up a 3-4 yard gain.  And he showed great recovery ability to shut down the guy who is the most elusive on our team right now for no extra yards.  A well designed and executed offense will beat a good defense every time.  

Earle's picture

Nah, he was just a little slow to react to the guy coming into his zone.  Made up for it with a nice pop.  Do that a couple of times in a game and the guy running that shallow cross is going to be looking for him instead of the ball.

In time, with some film study and more game experience, he'll see that sooner. Then, lookout!

Snarkies gonna snark. 

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

So many posts have penciled in Mitchell and Johnson as immediate impact guys (and it could happen), but Grant's development is more important to the team as it allows the young-ins to get on the field when they're ready instead of when we're out of options but to play untested freshmen and gives us upperclassmen at a vital position. Remember that Shazier didn't start immediately and that Sabino didn't really hit his stride until last year. Better late than never indeed.
For everyone out there who wrote Grant off, it's prudent to think about all of the prized recruits who it just didn't happen for or who gave up, and respect his maturity and dedication to improvement. If anyone remembers a "can't miss" from few year's back named Kyle Prater, he's at Northwestern now (after virtually disappearing at USC) and is not exactly being talked about there either. Grant's tone and reflection give me the feeling that we'll see the best player that he can be (however good that is) and that this experience will be positive for him in the long run instead of a devastating blow to his ego.

cplunk's picture

It is a cliche, but it is true- Life is not about avoiding failure, which is not possible, it is about how you react to failure when it happens.
He seems to be reacting well. I look forward to watching him play this year.

Citrus's picture

By B1G season he will have confidence in the bank.

Let me get this straight our weaknesses on D are:

A D-Line that features Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence

LB core that features one of the nation's best LBs (RDS) and the former number 2 overall prospect??

Hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen, this year is going to be fun!!!

tdible2132's picture

The play of Curtis Grant is arguably going to be the key to another undefeated year. No pressure Curtis! Lol

buckguyfan1's picture

We shall call this...

We are pulling for you Kid!!!

bodast67's picture

El Guapo probably said "Here Curtis, let me rest this chip on your shoulder for awhile, I don't need it anymore"




     " I hope when I die, I die laughing"...                

Earle's picture

Nice idea, but I would prefer Mr. Hyde keep his chip.  He seems to run better with it.
What was it Urban said about Carlos "not handling praise very well"?  Keep him angry.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

Oyster's picture

I read that to mean he is humble and doesn't like being talked about.  Like it makes him uncomfortable.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

Earle's picture

I like your interpretation better.  Maybe I'm just remembering some of the maturity issues Carlos seemed to have before last year.  Looks like there are some parallels between Hyde and Grant, so I'm hoping Curtis steps it up the way Carlos did.
I still want him to run angry, though.  Viva El Guapo Enojado!

Snarkies gonna snark. 

Grayskullsession's picture

I remember Luke Fickell saying that Grant was thinking too much while he played and not reacting and that's what was holding him back. It seems that he flipped that around now. In that gif instead of thinking about where the ball was being thrown he simply reacted to the throw and leveled Philly after he caught it. I would have liked to see him wrap instead of dropping his shoulder, but this is a spring game.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

BuckeyeMike2002's picture

I had doubts about Curtis Grant at the end of last season. Congrats kid on apparently turning it around. Now we move into that five month trough between the spring game and the start of the season. I hope the focus and the work continue. Kid has beau coup potential.

Q: What is the difference between the Michigan Football Team and a bag of crap. A: The Bag.

Squirrel Master's picture

5*Rod Smith - struggled early but has now come on and is the backup tailback with the possibility of being the lead back next year! Kid has certainly come around
5*Curtis Grant - Horrible freshman year and not a great sophomore year. This year he is looking to break out and has a great opportunity to be the starting Mike that we all wanted him to be.
5* Steve Miller - So-So play up to the point and could possibly be too buried to have the same breakout play that Rod and Curtis are having. He still can be a vital contributor though and isn't done yet. Probably the least heralded of the 3 but still important none the less!
The common thread with all 3 can be that they are 5* that have struggled to this point but I believe it really took a toll on these kids to come in as the most heralded players in their classes and right in the middle of turmoil! I have always felt what these kids went through in 2010-2012 as incoming freshmen that are expected to do more than most were not given a fair shake at the start. True other players have blossomed while they struggled but they definitely deserve some credit for sticking it out this far. They will see their hard work pay off, just keep that chip on the shoulder and work as hard as you can. Urban will make sure you get your chance! There is still plenty of time to become great players that have the opportunity to bring home a championship before their college career is done! Can't ask for more than that!

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

dubjayfootball90's picture

YES!!! GIVE ME SOME GRANT!!!! YES!!!!! I love this kid man, and I hope he turns it on this year and ruins lives (legally and figuratively, of course, pertaining solely to the football field but issuing no harm on others as well)!!!!
FYI, I was did not yell that text within the parenthesis, but I was saying that emphatically in my head!!!

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

buckguyfan1's picture

You came through loud and clear.  My man!

OSUAndy07's picture

I could've sworn he didn't score on that blocked punt in the Wisconsin game and that he was downed at the 1 (which I thought was crap). 

"But I'm tryin' Ringo. I'm tryin', real hard, to be the shepherd"

cinserious's picture

I'm glad to finally hear what Grant had to say about his lack of development. Its been over two years of wondering what was happening in his head while we all knew what was(nt) happening on the field. Although extremely mature physically since H.S., he lacked maturity in college. Good for him for manning-up and realizing what he was doing wrong and correcting the problem. Also kudos to Grant's family and the Buckeye coaching staff for teaching him the value of self-accountability.
Grant: you're probably still not old enough to drink yet but you're a grown A-- man now in my book...Go BUCKS!

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

I do hope this is true. I also hope it serves as a reminder that there's no prize for being the first person to label someone as a bust.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.


Grant's learning curve is at a point where he just needs that little push to be at the elite status we all were hoping for. With our non-conference schedule this fall what it is he should be able to reach that level simply on those games building more confidence. By the time we play Wisky and its ground game THAT will be the moment we'll know for 100% for sure if he's there. He has a 10+ tackle night in that game LOOK OUT WORLD.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

buckguyfan1's picture

I hope he can keep his head clear and not over think each play.  Easier said than done, but the great ones let physical attributes and pure instinct take over.  We know he has the physical attributes...

MediBuck's picture

If Grant can put it all together, with his athleticism, he could be beastly.
I'm particularly happy to hear that he's no longer playing with the anxiety of living up to his potential. The LB position in particular has to play instinctively, fluidly, and loosely, especially with the proliferation of spread offenses everywhere, and thinking too much can slow down reaction time. I hope he goes out there with both confidence and a relaxed demeanor and crushes our foes this upcoming fall!!

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

MN Buckeye's picture

Great article, Kyle!  I remember being 19-20, still trying to figure out who I was.  Some might say that still.  It has taken him time to grow up and to deal with super-high expectations.  Sounds like he has been getting past that, and for him and us I wish him the best!

2014nationalchamps's picture

we need Grant to be the player we thought he was when he signed here. He is the highest profile recruit at LB to come to OSU for as long as I can remember. Lets hope for a 1st team confernce season and a B1G and national title.

O-H-I-O  for life

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Glad to hear he's making good progress!  We need him to become a player.  I like him becuase it didn't come easy for him and he's worked hard to get there.  Still got a ways to go.  I want to see it during the actual games, but it sounds like he's really making good progress! 
Go Bucks!!

pddally's picture

I think Curtis is coming on strong this year;he now has devoted himself to being the best he can be.  He can be a real Stud in there!!