These days, Adam Grant hums right along with the high-powered University of Arizona offense.
It sure beats being hurt.
Playing surely is better than standing around, which the Puyallup product had become accustomed to in his career with the Wildcats, suffering three knee surgeries and a hand injury.
In 2009, Grant hasn’t missed a beat – or, more important, a start – at right tackle, paving the way for the league’s top-rushing offense at 223.3 yards per game.
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With all the personnel Arizona shuttles in and out – four players have 20 or more carries, and the Wildcats have rotated quarterbacks Matt Scott and Nick Foles – Grant has a big role keeping the running lanes open.
“Our offensive line coach (Bill Bedenbaugh) tells us this, and it bodes true for every team, you block the guy you’re supposed to block for as long as you can – until he turns away or he’s on his back on the ground,” Grant said. “I block the same way for whoever is in there.”
His production has been a pleasant surprise, especially considering the game Saturday at the University of Washington will be the fifth-year senior’s 10th career start.
“Last year coming off the (hand) injury, he was a bit tentative, but he had no problems,” Stoops said. “Shoot, this year, he’s played great. I think he’s starting to hit his stride. He’ll be a candidate for a sixth year ... but now, he’s the player we thought he’d be.”
Grant left Puyallup High School in 2005 as a 245-pound tight end, with the skill set of a basketball post player. He was projected to play at defensive end or tight end initially, but coaches told him he would eventually shift to the offensive line.
In 2006, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. A year later, he suffered the same injury in the same area.
“After the first surgery, I thought, ‘This is normal.’ It happens because football is a collision sport,” Grant said. “The second and third ones, they really threw me off. They jolted me emotionally. I hadn’t really had any collegiate play.”
The only bit of good news is when he injured his knee, the ACL was the only ligament he damaged.
Grant’s final surgery came in September of 2007 in Indianapolis. Part of the ligament from his left knee was transplanted into his right knee. Extensive rehabilitation soon followed, and it took many more months to get over the trauma mentally.
“I had some low points,” Grant said. “I had a couple of days where I’d put myself at the end of (a room) where I didn’t talk to anybody.”
It wasn’t until last spring when Grant began to feel like himself again. He was back up to a 500-pound leg squat. And he started showing a little more explosion in his vertical jump.
The biggest test came in plyometrics testing. The goal for the 6-foot-8, 325-pound lineman was to jump up on a 42-inch box.
“I think it was my best offseason. This is the first time I’ve had my legs underneath me again,” Grant said. “I think coaches were impressed. I mean, I didn’t expect a position to be mine. I knew I had to earn it.”
Grant’s re-emergence came at an opportune time, too. Eben Britton, the team’s starting left tackle in 2008, left for the NFL last spring. Three spots on the offensive line were up for grabs. Grant took one of them and ran with it.
“This week I’m super excited. I didn’t get any sleep at all (Wednesday night). I haven’t had a chance to go home and play a game,” Grant said. “I’ve got a list of 25 people coming. I got my two roommates and a bunch of my teammates to help out, so I’ve got enough tickets.”
Safety Nate Williams (concussion) has all been ruled out for the game Saturday against Arizona. UW coach Steve Sarkisian said the junior “didn’t test well” in a post-concussion computerized test Thursday. Receiver D’Andre Goodwin (concussion) was marginally better, but is on “emergency status” against the Wildcats. ... Running back Johri Fogerson (flu) missed his third practice in a row, but is expected to play Saturday. ... One day after going down before practice, Greg Walker (knee) was back running with the No. 1 defense. He and Nate Fellner will likely split duties at free safety, with Victor Aiweya making his second career start at strong safety. ... Gig Harbor High product Joe Jarzynka will be honored as the “Husky Legend” at the end of the third quarter Saturday.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442