The date was October 11, 2003.
Julius Jones had just run wild on the 15th-ranked Pitt Panthers defense, calling to mind the earlier game in September when he had almost singlehandedly orchestrated a comeback win against Washington State. I turned to a friend who was watching the game with me and said, “Why the hell is Ryan Grant even on scholarship, let alone starting over Julius?”
Truth be told, Ryan Grant didn’t have the greatest career at Notre Dame. Yes, he was the consummate team player and had to deal with some nagging injuries. But there always seemed to be something lacking with his game. He didn’t have breakaway speed, he ran with his head down, he was a little on the lanky side, etc.
The NFL Scouts agreed with this assessment. Although Grant graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in Sociology and Computer Science, a notable accomplishment in its own right, his not-quite-heralded entree into the NFL began as a member of the New York Giants’ practice squad.
In a freak accident, Grant slipped on a wet nightclub floor during a party in early 2006, his left arm crashing though a glass table. Grant almost bled to death. According to his agent, Alan Herman, Grant made it to the hospital just in the nick of time. Herman said that first there was some doubt about whether Grant would live, then came the worry that he would never play football again because he would lose feeling in his hand.
“I was bleeding profusely,” Grant said. “I severed my artery, nerve and tendon. For a while after my injury, I could not move my hand. The bleeding was so bad that stitches were not enough. I needed surgery.”
Grant was placed on injured reserve for the duration of the 2006 season. In the span of less than three years he had gone from starting tailback for the University of Notre Dame to a one-armed assistant coach for a high school football team in Jersey.
By the end of the 2006 season the Giants had seen enough. They traded Ryan Grant to the Packers for a future 6th-round draft pick.
That’s when things got interesting.
By the middle of the 2007 season injuries had depleted the Packers’ depth at tailback. On October 29, in front of a “Monday Night Football” national television audience, Ryan Grant would play his first game as the starting tailback for Green Bay. 104 yards later, ESPN was saying, “Who is Ryan Grant?”
They would soon have their answer, as Grant ran for 100 or more yards in five of his ten NFL starts and produced more yards rushing in the second half of the season than everyone but San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson. Just how good was Grant’s stretch run? Sports Illustrated currently has Ryant Grant projected as its #10 pick in the 2008 Fantasy Draft.
But on Saturday, January 12, 2008, the doubters were back. The breakout player of the year’s magical regular season had just been erased in the span of 69 seconds. Make that 69 seconds, two touches, two fumbles, two Seahawks’ touchdowns. The Packers were down 14-0 early in the first quarter, and Ryan Gra