With a stalwart like Ryan Shazier – a leader on and off the field – no longer in the linebacker meeting room, a void was waiting to be filled. Grant, a former ballyhooed five-star prospect who has not had the career he had hoped for through his first three years in Columbus, knew the time had come for him to become the go-to guy.
“Someone needed to step up in the room, and me being a senior, I felt like I should take that role,” Grant.
Therefore, Grant has worked hard to become the leader that the linebackers need. Of course, he wants his play to improve, but the Richmond (Va.) Hermitage product also wants to act as a guiding light to the younger, more inexperienced linebackers who will be called upon to contribute in some way this fall.
Linebackers coach Luke Fickell praised Grant’s noticeable increase in confidence this August and went as far as to call Grant the “passion and energy” of the defense. Grant’s collegiate voyage has not always been on calm seas, but he hopes to conclude his Buckeye career with his best season.
As for his first three campaigns at Ohio State, Grant graded himself “very average.” He is coming off his most productive season thus far, recording 52 tackles in 12 starts, including four for loss with 2½ sacks and a pair of pass breakups. Still, he has only recorded 62 career tackles – not quite what many expected from him after a prep career that saw him earned Parade All-America and USA Today All-USA team honors.
“I didn’t have the confidence that I needed coming in,” Grant said. “I was thinking too much and not playing the game. But it’s changing. The guys in the room need somebody to look up to, so I’m not going to put them on the backburner thinking about myself.”
Grant was slowed late last season because of ankle and back ailments, but now healthy again, he is ready to show what he can do.
“I kind of have a chip on my shoulder,” Grant said. “I haven’t lived up to what I want to live up to myself. So I’m coming out this year with a focused mind, and whatever happens, happens.”
Grant will more than likely be Ohio State’s starting middle linebacker when the Buckeyes open the season Aug. 30 in Baltimore vs. Navy. But behind him is a look back to Grant’s past. Raekwon McMillan, like Grant a much-hyped five-star prospect, will begin his collegiate career this fall.
Grant and McMillan are rooming together at the team hotel during the preseason, and Grant wants to make sure he teaches the youngster as much as he possibly can.
“That’s like my little brother, so we get along,” Grant said. “I try to teach him the ropes, something I didn’t have my freshman year (in 2011). I kind of had it, but it’s a little bit more welcoming (now).”
Grant knows what McMillan will face early in his OSU days better than most. That’s why it is important for Grant to give back.
“I was the same way coming out of high school,” Grant said. “You can either not help somebody and make the team worse or help somebody and make the team better. Which would you pick in the long run?”
As for the final year of Grant’s Buckeye career, he wants success – and fun.
“Go all the way and have a great time,” Grant said of his goals. “If you have a great time and build something with the guys, it’ll show on the field.”