Ryan Grant walks the sidelines of the Loftus Center lost in his own thoughts. Thoughts of how much he needs to improve, thoughts of a difficult six months and thoughts of letting his team down. That very same courage that drove Grant through the pain last year is driving him nuts this spring because he can't participate, improve and help his team.
Grant understands pain. "It was very painful during the season. I don't think it was to the point where I felt I couldn't play because I somehow made it through. There were times when I didn't know if I could make it through a game. I remember telling the coaches and the other backs to make sure they were ready because I didn't know how long I could last but I always told them I was going to go as long as I could. I was blessed to be able to make it through the season, it was very painful but I did it for the team. I was very disappointed that we didn't get the job done the way we wanted to."
Grant paces the sidelines of the practice field like a lost puppy just waiting for someone to play with him. "It's very tough, just not being part of the team. The ups and downs with the guys, that's really hard for me right now. It's also frustrating just not being able to compete, going out there and practicing and getting better. Everyone can use more practice and I definitely need it so that is really rough just watching everybody out there. I'm just trying to get every mental aspect of the game down so when I get back in there I don't miss a beat on that. Any little thing I can jump on while I'm out, I think I need to do that. That is my obligation to the team. I'm trying to work with the younger guys on the team because they are going through a lot. I'm trying to work with them and anything the coaches ask me to do."
The running backs as a whole had a difficult year. Most were hurt at least some point in the year. Grant said the running backs have set some goals for next year. "First, we want to stay healthy because we know what we can do when we're healthy. We want to be able to contribute as much as possible and step it up. We know the parts of our game where we didn't produce as much as we would like to. Maybe in the passing game, we were disappointed in that aspect especially for a west coast offense. We need to run harder and produce more and let them know that they can count on us."
Even amongst all that courage, Grant still had some critics. Grant says he isn't concerned with the critics. "I think fans can own their own opinion, that's up to them. I can't worry about that because I'm not playing for them. The fans that supported me, I appreciated that greatly. I understand that this is going to happen. No matter what you do, week in and week out you have to get the job done. I think this team has great confidence in me. They know what I can do and they understand the injury I had and they knew that every week I stayed out there and tried to give it as much as I could. My overall performance for the season was disappointing to me and to the team and what happened at the end of the year was very disappointing."
When brought to his attention that he was a 1000-yard rusher and he had nothing to be disappointed about, Grant quickly corrected this reporter. "I have high expectations and goals. It wasn't like I didn't think I could do that, I knew I could do that and achieve a lot more than that. It was disappointing in that I wasn't able to finish out the season strong and help my team when they needed me. I understand that there were certain limitations but I need to move on and focus on next season and hopefully I won't be in that position again."
Grant is sidelined now recovering from shoulder surgery he had after the bowl game. Grant said he would be ready for fall camp. "I'll be fine by fall camp, I'll be ready to go. It feels real good right now. I want to go out and hit someone. I have the utmost confidence in this medical staff and when they tell me I'm ready to go I will be ready."
Grant knows that he will have some competition in the fall. He knows that Julius Jones might be returning to the lineup but Grant has his own goals in mind for the season. "I want to prove that I can be that go-to guy. I want the offense to know that during crunch time that they can go to me. Honestly, I want to look at all aspects of my game. I feel there are so many different things I can improve on. I want to be more explosive and looking at my cuts and reading schemes a little better. I need to work on my catching a little bit out of the backfield. I need to look at everything because once you start to become complacent and that's not how I got here so I need to keep doing the things that got me here."
A lot has been said and printed about Ryan Grant in the last year. One absolute truth one could say is that he is one tough and courageous kid. Grant fought through the pain and did everything he could for his team. Notre Dame fans haven't witnessed the real Ryan Grant yet and that is something Grant hopes the Irish fans will see very soon.