Bill Grimes: An Unknown With Upside

Contrary to opinion in some quarters, Tennessee didn't discover its latest commitment, wide receiver Bill Grimes, on the back of a milk carton.

True, he had been laboring in relative obscurity at Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville, Ga., which opened in 1999 and just started playing varsity football in 2000.

"We're only four years old," said Chapel Hill head coach Steve Rodick. "In fact, Bill is in the first graduating class. We started out with just freshmen and sophomores and had very few sophomores when we started, so Bill was in the first full class to graduate. People don't even know our address. Plus, our first year, we played nothing but a JV schedule. The last two years we played double A and then we went to quad A this last year."

The jump in classification did nothing for Chapel Hill's record and did little to help Grimes gain notoriety as a football prospect.

"We're young going against the giants and we got our butts beat," Rodick confessed. "We're 3 and 27 in three years. It was real tough and that's probably why Bill got lost in the shuffle. But he's always been a good athlete and, at the same time, people just look at the win-loss record."

Grimes, who checks in at 6-31/2 and 205 was used wherever he could help the Panthers most, including as a halfback in a wishbone formation his sophomore year.

"Bill used to be in the backfield that first year," Rodick said. "We ran a wishbone. He weighed more than most of our linemen. He was a running back our sophomore year. We did whatever we could to move the ball against these guys. We happened to be in the toughest double A region in the world. We were just trying to survive week in and week out. As we kind of got older, we moved the bigger kids outside. Bill has always been able to catch the ball and he knows what to do when he gets it in his hands. He's also returned punts and kickoffs."

Grimes played cornerback on defense and was a special teams standout who averaged 25 yards per return as a senior. However, he had a better season statistically as a junior because the Panthers had an experienced senior quarterback.

"He probably had a better junior year," Rodick said. "We had a better quarterback and threw a lot of balls. The thing is that his return average was probably 25 yards and he probably averaged about 10 yards a catch this year. He had seven touchdowns this year and 10 as a junior. He averaged about 17 yards per catch as a junior because we had a quarterback that could throw the deep ball."

Though his team suffered from lack of depth, experience and talent, Grimes managed to make his presence felt even in defeat.

"He's one of those guys who has the presence to dominate the game," said Rodick. "We only won one game this year and it was pretty much Bill having a good game offensively and defensively. He made a couple of big stops for us at corner and he got us in good field position returning the ball."

Grimes is very athletic, competing in track, basketball and baseball at Chapel Hill in addition to football. He is currently bench pressing 290 and squats 415. Grimes was higher on both lifts but has been limited in recent months by a hairline fracture in his wrist that has just now healed. His listed time in the 40 of 4.50 is legitimate, according ot his coach.

"He runs about a 4.5, 4.55," said Rodick. "I time from a dead start, too. I try to be as accurate as I can. He's also run track for a couple of years. He played baseball and basketball so he's pretty athletic.

"He made some very good athletic catches. I had a freshman and sophomore at quarterback this year we did the best we could. We just didn't have the time to throw long passes. We tried to get him the ball as much as we could."

Despite Grimes' size, speed and athletic skills he wasn't getting the attention of college scouts and began to feel he might be left out when scholarships were offered. That's when Rodick decided to take a proactive approach to get his receiver noticed.

"He was kind of worried about it," Rodick said. "'Coach I want to play college ball but we don't have the stuff.' I said: Hey just work hard and I think when we get a highlight film out there we'll get known."

The highlight film was a hit with the critics and soon Grimes was hearing from colleges interested in his football future.

"Those teams that saw him liked him," said Rodick. "We had schools come by and look at film and they'd say: ‘My God where has he been.'

"Maryland saw film of him last spring and they were really surprised. They offered him a scholarship then. I told him to wait until the summer is over, go visit some schools and then make your decision. Well he just didn't decide and I think his dad had something to do with that. After he got the offer from Maryland, he thought well maybe the Georgia schools would offer."

The Georgia schools didn't offer but Grimes did hear from schools such as Vanderbilt, UConn, MTSU, Jacksonville State and Ohio University. He had a trip planned for Bowling Green last weekend when Tennessee called to offer an official visit. Grimes canceled his trip to Kentucky and made a good impression with the coaches at UT.

"Bill is a good student," said Rodick. "He has a 3.2. He's got a good test score, too. He's a gentleman. It's yes sir, no sir, and all that other stuff. I think that's what Coach (Pat) Washington and Coach (Randy) Sanders really liked about him because he's the type of guy that represents your team real well.

"Talking to Coach Washington and some of the press guys yesterday, he reminds people of (former Vol) David Martin."

Rodick admits that Grimes still has a lot to learn and believes his best days as a football player are still ahead.

"He's got a lot to learn," Rodick said. "With the situation we were in it was a challenge every week. So I think we got the best out of him we could get. I think with a better team he could have had some tremendous numbers.

"He played at 215 and he's down to 205 now. This time next year it wouldn't surprise me if he was 235 and just as fast. Once they get him on the program they have up there, he'll be lean and mean."

Grimes is so grateful to have an opportunity to play football for a topflight program, he has fully embraced the Big Orange motif.

"I'm just tickled to death he's going to a top quality school," said Rodick. "His mind is set to go up there and wear that orange stuff. His colors lately have been orange. He comes to school in orange shirts and stuff. I think he's ready to be a Volunteer."

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