Grimes Embraces His Role At Receiver

Charlie Weis cut right to the chase with Notre Dame receiver David Grimes before spring football practice began. The Irish head coach had worked with small receivers in the NFL that produced at a high level, and he was expecting the same from the 6-foot, 174-pound Grimes next season. The junior-to-be is the only returning receiver on the roster with any sort of experience at the position.

The conversation with Weis got Grimes excited about spring ball and the upcoming football season in the fall. But Weis's point wasn't really driven home until he lined up for that first play during practice.

"It kind of hit me," Grimes stated. "I looked to my left and right, and I don't have Rhema (McKnight) and Jeff (Samardzija) standing there. So it's like yeah, I'm forced to step up now."

Grimes was the Irish's third receiver, and fifth-leading pass catcher a season ago. He caught 26 passes for 336 yards (12.9 avg.) and two touchdowns. In the three-receiver offense, Grimes was on the field watching McKnight and Samardzija cap off two of the most prolific seasons a receiver has had in Notre Dame history.

With John Carlson, Grimes will be the guy the quarterback, whoever that may be, will look for. Weis always says, the quarterback delivers the ball to whoever is open, but it seems like the same guy is always getting open, and Grimes will be counted on to be that player.

"I have great confidence in coach Weis," Grimes stated. "Obviously his history with smaller receivers has been great. It does nothing but motivate me. Watching guys like Troy Brown and Deion Branch is just motivational."

Making key catches in crucial situations like the UCLA frantic comeback, and finding the end zone, has given Grimes a little of the swagger McKnight and Samardzija had, coming into this spring.

"It definitely boosted my confidence," Grimes said of last season. He caught two passes for 19 yards as a freshman. "It let me know I was capable of playing at a Division I college level. It definitely helped a lot.

"I feel a lot more comfortable. I see things and they're not new to me. Now it's almost my nature to react and respond to things when at first when I got here and started playing, the speed of the game was faster. So I mean I feel a lot more comfortable."

Grimes has been a mainstay in the Irish kick return game the past two seasons, and is running with the first unit this spring. As a freshman he returned 15 kicks for 338 yards (22.5 avg.) with a long of 40 yards. Last season he had 21 returns for 514 yards (24.5 avg.) with a long of 50 yards. Those numbers are solid, but not anywhere near where Weis or Grimes wants them to be.

Heading into the spring, one of the big areas Weis wanted to focus on is special teams, and he has the whole coaching staff chipping in now and helping fix the problems. Grimes has noticed improvement already with the kick-return unit.

"We got a lot of new faces out there," Grimes said. "Some guys that like to hustle and run a little bit, so it's going to be exciting to see.

"I think we've got a lot of hungry guys, guys that are trying to make a name for themselves. Guys that are just trying to get on the field anyway possible. Whatever they're asked to do, they're willing to do."

Grimes also notices the hungry receivers behind him, and isn't taking his spot in the receiver rotation for granted.

"Those guys are trying to get better and improve on a daily basis," Grimes said. "They're shooting for spots because nothing is etched in stone. I've got them on my back also. They want to be the number one receiver also."

Grimes has never doubted himself as a player, even though he's heard it verbally from others. He has used the negativity about his height as fuel. That's what has put him in the position he is in now, and that's what he hopes will take him to the next level as a college receiver.

"A lot of guys like to use size against people," Grimes stated. "It's been something I've been dealing with my whole life. I'm fine with it, so everyone else should be also."

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