Ryan Grant’s football career was impacted by injury and some crowded running back rooms. But he is a great example of the power of perseverance, especially when his pro career is factored in.
Grant grew up in the New York City suburb of Nyack, and attended Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey. In 2000, his senior year, he excelled as a two-way player notching nearly 1,000 yards rushing and also recording 61 tackles and 7 interceptions as a defensive back. For this accomplishment he was named the USA Today New Jersey Player of the Year.
Bob Davie lured him to South Bend. He backed up Julius Jones his freshman year and only recorded 29 carries. Tyrone Willingham took over the next season and Jones was ineligible for the year giving Grant the opportunity to take over the starting role. Early on, Willingham praised Grant for his attitude and desire to excel, and Grant responded with a 1,085-yard season and 9 touchdowns. Grant’s best game of the year in which the Irish went 10-3, came against Air Force when he rushed for 190 yards and a TD in a hard fought 21-14 win.
Expectations were high for his Junior season, but with Julius Jones back, he split time and his production was reduced to 510 yards and 3 TDs. In 2004 Jones was gone but Grant was hobbled by a hamstring injury and the emergence of Freshman Darius Walker. Grant ended the season with 515 yards and another 5 touchdowns.
Despite a 4.43 40 time at the 2005 NFL combine, Grant went undrafted the following Spring, but he signed with the New York Giants and spent the year on their practice squad. He then missed the entire 2006 season after suffering a serious off season freak accident that resulted in the severing of an artery in his left arm. He spent the off season as a volunteer coach at his old high school and taking Real Estate classes, not knowing if he would ever play again.
After an arduous recovery and rehab, the Giants traded him to the Packers for the 2007 season, and this time he took advantage of injuries to other players and by mid-season ascended to the starting line up. He finished with an impressive 956 yards rushing and 8 tds despite only starting 7 games. In 2008 and 2009 he was a workhorse for the Packers exceeding 1200 each season and totaling 15 touchdowns. The injury bug bit him again in 2010 when he suffered a season ending ankle injury in week one, but he earned a Super Bowl ring none the less after the Packer championship run.
Grant returned in 2011 and 2012 and was effective in part time duty. But then retired after piecing together an eight year NFL career.
For his perseverance and outstanding performances, Ryan Grant is an All-Time Irish Hero.