Nov. 14, 2008
When you first see Tyler Grisham, thinking of him as a Division I football player is one of the last things that comes to mind. Standing just 5’11” and weighing 180 pounds, the senior wide receiver is small in stature.
His size caused many college recruiters to overlook him. Grisham played nearly every down in every game on both offense and defense for Spain Park High School outside of Birmingham, AL. He played quarterback, safety, held on field goals, and was a member of the punt and kick return teams along with being a wide receiver. His numbers were not impressive as a result of playing so many positions, so he did not receive a lot of interest from college programs. Even as others doubted him, he knew deep down that he could play big-time Division I football.
Grisham excelled on defense as a free safety, and in fact, he even talked to Mississippi State about playing cornerback. But his heart was set on being a wide receiver. He had just over 300 receiving yards as a senior, as offers came in from smaller schools such as William & Mary and UAB.
Ironically, Grisham had been attending summer camps where Dabo Swinney was a coach for years. As a child, the Alabama native attended football camp at the University of Alabama every summer, where Swinney was also a coach. From the time he was eight-years-old, Swinney was impressed by Grisham’s abilities on the field.
“Tyler is a kid that I had at camp when he was eight, nine, and 10-years-old when I was coaching at Alabama, and he used to come to camp every year,” recalled Clemson’s interim head coach. “He was always the best guy. He was always the smallest, but he was always the best.”
When Swinney began coaching at Clemson, Grisham started making the trip to the Palmetto State to attend the Tigers’ summer camps.
“He followed me up here as a 10th grader,” continued Swinney. “In the 10th grade, he was the best, and in 11th grade, he was the best.”
After impressing coaches with his work ethic and speed at camp after his junior year, Clemson offered him a scholarship. Grisham jumped at the opportunity, not only because it was his best offer, but because he liked Clemson’s offense and the opportunities it provided for wide receivers. It also gave him a chance to play under Swinney, then the wide receivers coach and a long-time supporter of Grisham.
Perhaps the most ironic part of Swinney’s relationship with Grisham is a hat he signed for the young camper many years before both were a part of the Clemson family. Written on an Alabama hat that Grisham still has is the following message.
“To Tyler, a future Tider.”
Little did either know at the time that he would be a future college football player under Swinney, but as a Clemson Tiger, not an Alabama Crimson Tider.
Grisham fondly remembers his days as a camper under Swinney and relishes the time he has spent learning under him in Tigertown. It has been especially meaningful for Grisham that his one-time position coach is finishing his senior season as the interim head coach. The experience has been equally as special for Swinney, who has nothing but glowing praise for Grisham.
“Tyler is a young man that holds a dear spot in my heart. He is a guy that if I was going to start a football team and you said you have five guys to start a team, he’d be one of those for sure. He’s the epitome of what a football player should be. He plays with a work ethic second-to-none and he gives great effort in everything he does.
“I think he is definitely the most complete wide receiver and one of the most complete football players on the team. From the day he got here to the day he leaves, he has given this program every ounce of what he has.”
Grisham has thrived under Swinney’s guidance and has left his mark on the Tiger recordbook. He enters today’s game against the Blue Devils with 123 career receptions, 11th-most in school history. He is also 16th in career receiving yards (1,306) at Clemson.
Grisham played as a true freshman in 2005, hauling in 10 catches on the season. In 2006, he had at least one catch in each of the last nine games and had three touchdown receptions on the season.
The 2007 season was his best year to date, as he had 60 catches and finished seventh in the ACC in receptions per game. His most memorable and favorite moment as a Tiger came against #14 Virginia Tech last year, a game in which he finished with 11 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. The 11 receptions tied a team-season-high and tied for second-most in a game in Tiger history. Surprisingly, he accumulated 68.5 knockdown blocks during the course of the season, more than any other Tiger non-offensive lineman.
Grisham also excels as a special teams player. He enjoys being on the field as much as possible, so he loves having the opportunity to be a part of the special teams unit. In addition to totaling five tackles this season, he also serves as the second-team holder and has returned kickoffs and punts in the past. Swinney points to Grisham as one of the best special teams players on the squad.
Close friend and teammate Thomas Austin echoed Swinney’s sentiments about the talented wideout.
“Tyler is a tremendously hard-working guy,” said the offensive lineman. “No one outworks him. When you look at him, you don’t think he plays football. He is probably our most complete wide receiver in the sense that he can catch, he runs great routes, he blocks, and he plays special teams.”
Not only does Grisham set a good example on the gridiron, he is also a great role model off it. He enjoys doing speaking engagements in the Clemson area, particularly at local churches. He believes that he has a great platform through football, and he knows that athletes and non-athletes alike can benefit from his knowledge and experience. He also takes pride in setting a good example and being a role model for his two younger brothers (Garrett, Drake).
“The thing that I’m most proud about with Tyler is the kind of young man he is off the field,” added Swinney. “He has absolutely taken to heart that he is a role model. He has tried to live his life in a way that is pleasing to God and a way that is a great example to others. He is very humble and he has a great spirit about him. To see the changes that he has been through off the field as far as his personal life and how he has matured as a young man has been something special for me to see. He is a great example of what a Clemson Tiger should be.”
Perhaps the most defining part of Grisham’s college career has been his faith. He became a Christian during his sophomore year at Clemson and has continued to grow and mature during the past few years. His faith has helped him put things in perspective, especially when it comes to football. He acknowledges that he is a Christian first and a football player second, which helps him handle mistakes and adversity as a student-athlete.
Grisham is involved on campus with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Reformed University Fellowship. He has been active in both organizations and attends meetings on a weekly basis. He has spent his past two spring breaks participating in mission trips, which have been very rewarding experiences for him.
Grisham leads a bible study for the team every Wednesday night. He started it last year with Austin, but Grisham has taken a greater leadership role this year to allow Austin to spend more time with his new wife. Grisham enjoys challenging his teammates and helping them to think about who they are and what they believe. He has enjoyed both teaching and learning from about 25 of his teammates who attend bible study on a weekly basis.
“I want those guys to understand that I’ve done what they’ve done and I’ve enjoyed the typical college life,” said #13. “But I’ve realized that those things are worthless in a sense, because you can’t be fulfilled from it. I’m trying to show them that it is amazing to be a believer. A lot of people are starting to realize that it’s getting to the end of their college careers and they need to start making some serious life decisions.”
Grisham will graduate from Clemson with a management degree in May. He is uncertain what his future holds, but he sees many options on the horizon.
Swinney believes that Grisham has what it takes to play at the next level, and both hope that he will have the opportunity to prove to an NFL team why he has been such a tremendous asset to Clemson’s program.
“I’m going to give the NFL a shot,” stated Grisham about his future as an athlete. “I’ve been playing every year since I was in the third grade, so I don’t know life without football.”
If playing football does not work out, he believes he has other options with the sport. He recently attended the Alabama vs. Tennessee game during Clemson’s bye-week, and he found himself analyzing the action on the field more than watching the game as a fan.
“I could see myself looking at defenses and reading them. I was like `man, I feel like a coach.’ I wondered if I’m going to want to be in the coaching profession one day if I can’t play.”
Religion has been such an integral part of his life during the past few years that he has not ruled out involving himself in faith-based work.
“There is a part of me that feels like I could be involved with some type of ministry. It’s going to be exciting to see where I end up.”
One thing is for sure, Grisham has left his mark on the Clemson football program, and his outstanding character and work ethic will present him with many opportunities in his future.
Amanda Wolk, a second-year graduate student from Berryville, VA, is a graduate assistant in the Clemson Sports Information Office. She previously worked as a student assistant at Clemson for four years.
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