The senior defensive tackle practiced for the first time since a shoulder injury, which led to surgery and an extended rehab. He was pleased to be back.
“It’s a blessing,” he said of being on the field with his teammates, getting ready for the 2012 season approaching. “During rehab and during camp, it’s been hard watching the guys practice and not be able to go out there with my team. Days I was down, but there were great leaders like Jason Jones and A.J. Hawkins, guys just lifted me up every day and encouraged me to keep my head up and eventually I’d be back. So I’m excited.”
So is his defensive line coach, Chris Kiffin, who says he expects Grant to help right away.
“I totally plan on him being there (in the top 4 or 5 defensive tackles for the opener),” Kiffin said. “We’re going to get a great feel the next ten days. My plan now is he’s going to be playing a lot, and then seeing how the first game goes. We’re planning on playing him a lot right now.”
Grant, who played in 11 games last season with seven starts, said he’s full strength and fully healed. And thankful.
“I feel 100 percent. Just thank God that he blessed me and healed my shoulder,” said the Miramar, Fla., native. “Because I know without him, I would still be hurt. So I just give thanks.”
It has been a long road back, Grant admitted.
“The rehab was hard. Some days I felt like it wasn’t getting better,” he said. “I was down some days, even go home some days and even cry. Somedays you ask ‘Why me?’. But through it all I just kept faith in God and just knew I’d be back out here to help my teammates. Just kept working hard every day, day by day. Encourage other D-Linemen to keep working hard, take no days off, and get ready.”
Grant said not only is he physically stronger but in other important ways as well.
“Mentally was what I needed to work on,” he said. “I was always (physically) strong and lifted weights. But mentally, I’m stronger now than ever.”
Kiffin said Grant should be ahead of the game with his knowledge of the defense and his experience.
“He knows the whole defense inside and out, and that’s been really pleasant,” he said. “He’s been in meetings all fall camp. You ask him questions, and he knows all the answers. It’s gonna be no issue for him to get caught up.”
Some other notes from the defensive front:
Kiffin on the defensive linemen as a whole and their camp –
“Good in areas, and bad in areas. We’ve got to get better at the point of attack and understanding the whole defense, understand our run fits and all that stuff. I've been pleased with where the guys are right now. The way I look at it is we still have a lot of time to clean a lot of things up, and by kickoff we’ll be ready to go.”
Kiffin on freshman Channing Ward -
“He’s looked really good. The best thing about him is his physical makeup. He’s a specimen out there. But it’s going to take some work to get him caught up. Obviously he’s got the skills and assets to be a great player. But the learning curve of it, to come out here right now and to have been cleared just 13 days before gameday is going to be really tough. I’m going to try my hardest to get him ready to go with everything. But we can always build a package for him. He can definitely be a pass rusher for us. We’ll determine all that in the next two weeks. He’ll definitely be able to rush the passer, and we’ll get him honed in on that.
Grant on freshman Issac Gross -
“What I see out of Issac Gross is a motor. He has a motor just to keep going and going. That’s what we need on the D-Line. We need guys to fly around and just chase the ball. I’d say he’s the best at doing it right now. His quickness, his get-off, will be his advantage over every offensive lineman he will see this year.”