Imagine being a piano prodigy who suddenly couldn’t quite make sense of the music; or a math genius who, for some reason, started struggling with long division; or a chef whose taste went from impeccable to inexplicably off.
Imagine doing whatever it is you do best, and almost overnight finding it just wasn’t quite as easy as it was before.
That’s what it had to be like for Buckeye senior Curtis Grant, as he went from 5-star recruit to “just a guy” on the Ohio State roster.
For years, OSU fans have been waiting for Grant to live up to the billing he received on Signing Day 2011, when both Scout and Rivals had him as the top linebacker in the country. In fact, Rivals ranked him as the second overall prospect nationally regardless of position.
However, he went from playing in ten games as a freshman (mostly on special teams), to eight games as a sophomore with eight total tackles, and last year started in ten of the 12 games he played, but was also slowed somewhat by ankle and back injuries while tragically losing his father to illness.
He was recruited by Jim Tressel, played his first year for Luke Fickell, who is now his position coach, and has–perhaps unbelievably–ended up a captain under Urban Meyer.
“His confidence level has really gone up, and that’s probably the biggest thing,” Fickell said earlier this month. “And not to give Curtis an excuse or anything, but he’s had a lot of tough things that have happened and things haven’t quite gone his way since the day he walked in here. But I’ll tell you what, he’s a different kid. I shouldn’t say kid. He’s a different man. He’s the passion and energy of that defense right now.”
Fellow linebacker Joshua Perry has noticed a difference, too.
“The thing that he did this year that’s worked was instead of trying to be ‘that guy’ and trying to say, ‘Okay, well, I’m going to do this, so I can have a lot of stats this year and be a really good player,’ he said, ‘I’m going to help everyone in my unit room out.'”
In Grant’s unit room is another heralded 5-star in freshman Raekwon McMillan. Grant has, according to coaches and teammates, both beaten McMillan out for the middle linebacker’s spot…and helped him out.
McMillan, after all, was one of the first freshman to have his black stripe removed, making him a full-fledged Buckeye, and Grant was his assigned “big brother.”
They say that one of the best ways to master a skill is to teach it, so maybe Grant got as much out of the mentoring as McMillan did.
“I know what I’m doing, and now that I understand what I’m doing, I can understand what my opponent is doing,” Grant said, “And I think that’s very big for a middle linebacker.”
Is that the reason for his transformation?
Ask him to explain it, and he says this: “This being my last year, I was telling coach, one of my biggest fears is not being able to play football anymore. You have to get your life together. If you want to get to where you’ve got to go, you have to grow up, or get out.”