The sophomore middle linebacker was one of the most talked about players during the spring. The proverbial light looked like it came on during the first practices of the Urban Meyer era, and Grant was listed as the No. 1 MLB on %%MATCH_7%% State's post-spring depth chart.
Grant was a popular subject during the spring. Meyer singled him out as a player the Buckeyes would need to produce in the fall. Teammates would rave about all the improvements he had made since a rocky freshman season.
Yet it wasn't until May 24 that Grant met with the media. The %%MATCH_6%% (Va.) Hermitage product admitted that last season was rough on him. Grant came to OSU overweight at 250 – he bulked up thinking he would need to be bigger to play in the Big Ten – and things never seemed to go well once he arrived.
"It started in camp and it just went downhill from there," Grant said. "Then it went back up."
Things got so bad for Grant last season that at one point he even thought about giving up the game he had played since he was a little boy. Then things started to improve. Grant got plenty of support from his family, his faith and his teammates and started to produce as a special teams player.
"(2011 head coach Luke Fickell) gave me a chance to play special teams, where I could just get out there and not think and just run around and hit whatever was moving in the opposite color," said Grant, who finished the season with two tackles in 10 games.
Grant, like the rest of the Buckeyes, got a chance at a fresh start following OSU's 6-7 campaign. Meyer was hired as the new head coach and the new strength and conditioning staff worked with Grant to get his weight down.
Grant told reporters that he is down to a more comfortable 235 thanks to his work with assistant AD for football sports performance Mickey Marotti.
"I came in (as a freshman) overweight, and then when Coach Mick got here it was like my body changed within a month," Grant said. "I went from like 250-something to back down to 233 within a month, just from the hard work and the stuff he had us doing. We were always competing and it was great."
Grant took advantage of that competition – and an injury-marred spring for senior middle linebacker Storm Klein – to earn a starting spot out of the spring. Grant said he has found a home as a MLB.
"I think my confidence level has gone up a lot," Grant said. "I've just been studying a lot and working with different players and coaches. It's been helping me a lot."
Grant has also had the benefit of time and perspective. While he was naturally frustrated with how things went last fall, now Grant understands that he is not the only highly-touted freshman to find early struggles.
After all, college football is a different animal than high school football.
"I look back on a year ago and I just smile and laugh at it because with the family support and what God has done for me it's just unreal," Grant said. "You go from being down and you don't know if you want to play anymore to, ‘Let's go. Let's go do what you've got to do.' Coach Meyer and all my coaches and teammates and the strength staff have been great motivators to just keep getting better every day. It's a great thing to have.
"I love the game and the passion. I just want to keep playing."
That passion has shown throughout the spring and beyond. He and fellow 2010 class member Ryan Shazier have joined standout defensive lineman John Simon for early-morning workouts since the spring season completed.
"He's constantly in there working really hard," senior linebacker Etienne Sabino said of Grant. "You can't get him out of here. He's always in here. It's really good to see."