Marc Narducci: Former Paul VI running back Jonathan Grimes signs with Texans after going undrafted

Running back Jonathan Grimes, unchosen in the recent NFL draft, had a stellar career at William and Mary.
Running back Jonathan Grimes, unchosen in the recent NFL draft, had a stellar career at William and Mary. (BOB KEROACK)
Posted: May 06, 2012

It's amazing how quickly an athlete goes from unwanted to desired in the NFL.

Running back Jonathan Grimes, the former Paul VI and William and Mary standout, experienced this quick transition after the recent NFL draft.

Grimes enjoyed a spectacular career at William and Mary, becoming the program's all-time leader in rushing yards (4,541), all-purpose yards (7,955), kickoff-return yards (2,289), and rushing attempts (936).

Yet possibly because he excelled only in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA), Grimes was not selected in the NFL draft.

Afterward?

"It was crazy," Grimes said.

Poor Grimes had only one phone, with plenty of people attempting to talk to him. He was alternating between NFL teams and his agent, Dominick Pilli of Sports Management Group Worldwide Inc. in Fairfax, Va.

"There must have been 10, 11 teams calling right after the draft," Grimes said by phone. "But it all worked out."

It took about 25 minutes, but his immediate future was determined when Grimes agreed to a free-agent contract with the Houston Texans, a team not exactly short on quality running backs. Leading the way is Arian Foster, fifth in the NFL last season with 1,224 rushing yards. Ben Tate, who rushed for 942 yards (5.4 average), could start on many teams.

"The thing about free agency is that you can pick your team, and I thought I would do well in Houston," Grimes said. "With Arian Foster and Ben Tate, I felt I could compete for the No. 3 spot, and they are a team that runs the ball well, has a great offensive line, and I thought it would be a nice fit."

So, apparently, did the Texans.

"First of all, Jonathan is a very smart guy and he does a great job with extra effort every play," Texans running backs coach Chick Harris wrote in an e-mail. "He can play the running back position, and he'll also probably be a person that can compete for a job on special teams."

Versatility is the key.

"Those are the types of guys you want - guys that are smart, guys that are quick to learn, and also being able to be a special-teamer," Harris wrote.

Grimes earned a degree in 31/2 years at William and Mary. He was a music major, and specializes in the piano. He also has written a number of songs.

He made the most of his football scholarship and certainly has something to lean back on - but, right now, all he wants is to play in the NFL, even if he has to take a more difficult route.

"He should have been drafted," said Pilli, his agent.

Instead of being angry, Grimes will use the draft snub as motivation.

"I think it is always good for every player to have a chip on the shoulder regardless if there was a lot of notoriety," Grimes said.

He says he's grateful for having a chance, and if he sticks with the Texans, there likely will be a number of Houston fans from South Jersey.

"He's even a better person than a football player, and that is saying something," said John Doherty, his coach at Paul VI. "There are so many people who are thrilled for him."

No one is more thrilled than Grimes.

"Every kid grows up dreaming of playing in the NFL, and I have the opportunity and it feels great," Grimes said.

For Grimes, the disappointment of draft day is already gone. In his mind, it's time to go out and earn an NFL spot.


Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sjnard.

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