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The Great Grigsby

It's early yet, but Blue RB is tearing it up

Posted: 07/8/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Nic Grigsby works out on Monday.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Nic Grigsby works out on Monday. Photo Store

Everything Nic Grigsby has done in his first two weeks as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber should come as no surprise to anyone who has tried to track his career over the last few years.

After all, since his college days at Arizona the 25-year-old Los Angeles product has run through enough roadblocks and busted through enough doors slammed in his face finding a crease in a defensive front seven is like a Sunday stroll through Assiniboine Park.

"It's just so much fun to be able to come out and be a playmaker again, to do the things that help bring energy, get the crowd going again, and if the team is having a hard time picking it up, to be a spark plug," said the Bomber running back after practice Monday.

"This is a great opportunity."

This is an opportunity Grigsby will admit hasn't come easily. Just to recap...

As a sophomore at Arizona Grigsby rushed for 1,153 yards and was outstanding enough to be on the Heisman Trophy watch. Injuries as a junior and senior limited him to 1,100 yards and hurt his draft stock -- despite some eye-popping testing numbers including a 44-inch vertical and a 4.34 40 time -- to drop him right off the board.

The Miami Dolphins signed him as a free agent. Then cut him after adding Reggie Bush and Steve Slaton on waivers and drafting Daniel Thomas. He was with the Oakland Raiders next, then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He first surfaced in Canada with the B.C. Lions in their 2012 camp, then -- in a testament to his athletic ability -- he quit football and turned to baseball, where he spent some time with the Minnesota Twins rookie squad.

The Toronto Argonauts came calling last year, specifically now-Bombers assistant GM Ted Goveia, but Grigsby was all-in for baseball and wasn't about to join the Boatmen while he was still hitting curveballs and chasing fly balls to the warning track.

When Goveia landed his gig in Winnipeg he looked up Grigsby one more time. And, after attending mini-camp in Florida he is not only back carrying the football, he is shining.

Grigsby has 184 yards rushing through two games -- second in the league to Saskatchewan's Anthony Allen at 224 yards -- and has added three touchdowns. It's not those numbers that have impressed Bomber brass as much as it was his fighting through an injury in training camp to fighting to get three yards on a second-and-two. In fact, he has rushed for 13 first downs already this season -- most in the CFL -- and is in the Top Five among receivers in yards after the catch.

Yeah, it's early. But there's a fire in Grigsby's belly that is fuelling his return to the game.

"He's shown that he understands the down and distance and the situation and decides to go straight ahead, makes that one cut," said head coach Mike O'Shea.

"We've seen it in the last two games where he says, 'I know what we need...' and he just plows ahead. The O-line likes that, too."

All this from a guy who is just getting back his football mojo.

"Anybody who sits out for a while is going to have rust," said Grigsby. "But if you can play the game, you can play the game. It just takes a little time. It's feeling really good now.

"When you're a playmaker... there's guys who are 40 years old who watch and say. 'Ah, I could still get out there now and still do that.' It was my brothers and my family who kept saying I needed to get back out there. And with me watching football... not playing was eating me up. It urged me to get back out here. And when I did I was stiff and I wondered, 'Man, is this really what I want to do again?' But you get the payoff when you are able to come in and make plays and be the cause of something good.

"It feels right," added Grigsby. "It feels like it's supposed to happen. Things happen for a reason and right now, I see the reason why I'm here."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 8, 2014 C3

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