NFL draft: UA's Grigsby relies on game film, pro day

2011-04-27T00:00:00Z 2012-11-30T19:25:29Z NFL draft: UA's Grigsby relies on game film, pro dayRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 27, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Nicolas Grigsby was visiting his brother in Philadelphia last month when he had a chance meeting with three of the NFL's most dynamic players.

The Eagles' Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy all had one thing in common.

"I looked at them and thought, 'You guys are small,'" he said.

And Grigsby is much, much bigger. The Arizona Wildcats running back has added 10 pounds to his 6-foot frame in the last three months without losing any of the quickness that made him so valuable over four seasons.

As a result, the 203-pound Grigsby could be selected in this week's NFL draft. The Eagles, Colts and Titans have all inquired about Grigsby with hopes he could serve as a speedy change-of-pace back or kick returner.

It's a role he's willing to embrace.

"They're all teams that need a sparkplug in their offense, teams that want to add more fuel to the fire," he said.

Grigsby brought plenty of sizzle to the Wildcats offense during his college career, rushing for 2,957 yards and 28 touchdowns over four seasons.

But shoulder and ankle injuries scuttled Grigsby's final two seasons: He rushed for just 1,100 yards in 2009 and 2010 combined, less than the 1,153 yards he amassed during a breakthrough sophomore year. Grigsby finished his UA career with 28 rushing touchdowns, a mark that's second in program history.

"Everybody in Tucson knows I tried to play every snap I could," he said. "But you can't play like you want to with a high-ankle sprain.

"I never had any big-time injuries, just the nagging injuries."

Grigsby thinks he knows why he kept getting hurt: He was fast but might have been too slight. The UA back played at 190 pounds for most of his career and, as a result, was often knocked around like a pinball.

During the off-season, Grigsby hired a trainer with the goal of putting on 10 pounds in as many weeks.

It wasn't easy, Grigsby said. He consumed 4,000 calories worth of precooked, pre-packaged food every day and worked out six days a week.

Grigsby avoided supplements and powders in favor of stuffed bell peppers, sausage and a half-dozen calorie-laden snacks a day.

"Some of the food was like, 'Oh my god. I have to eat that?'" Grigsby said. "But you've got to buy in. By buying in, you have to eat what you have to eat.

"At first, I was force-feeding myself. But I weighed in at 202 at pro day, and I had 5 percent body fat."

It paid off. Grigsby ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 and 4.4 seconds, tops of any UA player at pro day. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 21 times, and broad-jumped 11 feet 1 inch.

Grigsby's vertical leap of 43.5 inches was tops on the team by a full 6 inches.

Scouts swooned, while others offered comparisons to former UA running back Chris Henry. Henry was a relative unknown when he left school a year early and enrolled in the 2007 draft. The Tennessee Titans were so impressed by Henry's pro day that they selected him in the second round.

Unlike Henry, however, Grigsby has four years' worth of game film to boost his résumé.

Game tape is the best indicator of success, regardless of how good a player's measurables are, UA center Colin Baxter said.

Like Grigsby, Baxter is hoping that NFL teams will overlook recent injuries and recognize talent on film.

"What it comes down to is what you put on film," Baxter said. "A lot of what (draft experts) say is for the fans and for entertainment."

Grigsby understands. While he's thrilled with his his new body and proud of his pro-day numbers, it's Grigsby's big-play ability that will either lure NFL teams or turn them off.

Grigsby said he talked with Vick, Jackson and McCoy - whom he met through his brother - about what it takes to make it in the NFL.

Size, he said, was never an issue.

"Vick, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy: They just make plays, man," Grigsby said. "You look at a lot of guys in the NFL, and it's not about their size; it's about making plays on the field.

"Those guys were in the right place at the right time."

Grigsby's stars could align by the end of the week.

If they don't, the rebuilt running back said he'll happily earn a spot as an undrafted free agent.

"It doesn't matter what round you do; you still have to earn a spot on the field," he said. "Yes, being drafted high would be lovely. Being drafted in the top seven rounds would be lovely. It would be a blessing. But you still have to make plays."

2011 NFL draft

• Thursday: First round, 5 p.m. (ESPN, NFL Network)

• Friday: Second and third rounds, 3 p.m. (ESPN, NFL Network) and 5 p.m. (ESPN2)

• Saturday: Fourth through seventh rounds, 9 a.m. (ESPN, NFL Network)

Texas QB commits

Quarterback Josh Kern verbally committed to the UA Tuesday, becoming the first piece - and possibly a cornerstone - of the Wildcats' 2012 recruiting class.

Kern, 6 feet 5 inches and 190 pounds, threw for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 369 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior at Tom C. Clark High School in San Antonio. The UA contacted Kern six weeks ago; he attended the Wildcats' spring game before giving his verbal commitment.

"I always thought I was going to stay in Texas," Kern said Tuesday night. "But when I went down for the spring game, I fell in love with the campus. I was originally going to wait until the end of my spring ball to commit, but I didn't want to lose this."

The Wildcats had an added edge when they recruited Kern, 17; as a kid, the quarterback followed the UA's basketball program closely.

"For some reason, I was always a big Arizona fan," he said. "Funny how it happens."

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