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October 12, 2009

SUNNY SIDE UP - Cody Grimm's lighthearted attitude makes him popular off the field and helps him thrive on it

By: Jimmy Robertson

When things are flying around on the field, Cody Grimm never seems to get rattled, and that demeanor has enabled him to become one of the Hokies' more productive players.

The idea itself was simply ingenious.

The execution absolutely flawless.

The end result undeniably hysterical.

Cody Grimm, Mark Muncey and a few friends lounged around Richard Graham’s apartment one day and ultimately became living proof that guys with too much time on their hands are dangerous things.

Grimm himself instigated this idea. For all his wonderful attributes on the football field, he possesses this devilish streak, one that sparks numerous forays into mischief. Graham just became the latest victim on Grimm’s lengthy hit list.

Graham had lost his wallet, and rather than ease his mind about it, Grimm and Muncey came up with a rather complicated blitz designed to bull-rush their unsuspecting offensive line teammate. They had been prank-calling Graham anyway, asking for his social security number and such. This time, though, using Muncey’s laptop, they operated a program and typed up some sentences telling Graham that they were coming after him and then used the computer to dial Graham’s phone number. The computer delivered the message.

Already worked into a lather, Graham found himself in a panic and decided to take a shower to relax himself. That, though, allowed Grimm and company to become even more creative.

They had one of Muncey’s friends come over, with a stocking over his head and a toy gun in his pocket. This friend waited in the car before receiving notice that Graham had finished his shower.

Then Muncey’s friend burst through the door, waving the toy and demanding money.

Everyone played along with this escapade, except for a clueless Graham, of course. His face turned ashen and the 290-pound lineman with the ability to bench press a couch could barely lift his arms out of fright.

In the end, Muncey’s friend came clean and laughter bounced off the walls. Graham realized he had just been punked.

“Yeah, we got him pretty good,” Grimm said, smiling, as he reiterated the tale. “That was probably the best one.”

Okay, so maybe the prank wasn’t in the best of taste considering past events in Blacksburg and on the Tech campus. Sometimes, though, boys will be boys.

And sometimes, some will be so more than others. Grimm falls into that category.

There have been other escapades. This summer, Grimm found a dead black snake near the golf course, and rather than dispose of it properly, he saw an opportunity. He coiled the dead snake and placed it in the driver’s seat of a friend’s car. The friend, not a Tech teammate, freaked out after nearly sitting on it.

“I enjoy having a good time with my friends,” Grimm said. “I like messing with the guys. We always mess with each other. It’s all in good fun.”

His play on the field during this 2009 season has been a hit with Tech fans, but that cavalier attitude off the field has made him one of the most popular players in the locker room and even among the coaches, who tend to be an uptight lot.

“He’s one of those guys who keeps you loose as a coach,” said defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who has been known to have a good time himself on occasion, as a summer Internet posting of him wakeboarding at Claytor Lake attests. “We have a tendency, as coaches, to get uptight and he’s one of those people who can be ‘real’ in the moment.”

“That’s pretty much Cody,” said Russ Grimm, a current Arizona Cardinals assistant, a former offensive lineman of the Washington Redskins and Cody’s father. “He doesn’t let too much bother him. Things just kind of roll right off his shoulders.”

That carefree demeanor worked well when he never expected anything of his football future.

It appears to be working even better now that he represents a critical cog on one of the best teams in the country.

Cody Grimm has been all smiles this season after making numerous big plays.

It’s hard to imagine a better life as a kid. This isn’t a sad tale by any stretch. No, by contrast, Cody Grimm had it good as a kid.

Or rather, he had it great.

His father, a four-time Pro Bowler with the Redskins and the proud owner of three Super Bowl rings, served as an assistant for the Washington Redskins for eight years during much of Cody’s childhood. So young Cody spent a lot of his time going to Redskins’ training camps, practices and games. He often tagged along with his dad for practices, even going with him early in the morning when his dad needed to be there for meetings, all for the purpose of hanging out with players.

When he didn’t make it to practice for the day, he often saw some of those players anyway, as many came over to the house later in the evening to meet or relax with his dad.

“I remember one time I hung out with Brian Mitchell for most of the day,” Cody said. “I also used to hang out with Trent Green. He’d actually come over to the house a lot and play cards. My dad used to coach the tight ends and they’d come over, too, guys like Tré Johnson.

“Sometimes, my dad would go over for a meeting and he’d take me along and I’d just hang out over there with some of the other coaches or with some of the players. It was a lot of fun.”

He became friends with the kids of other players, too. In fact, Russ Grimm and Don Warren were teammates on the Redskins squad in the 80s, and the two families practically became one, vacationing and spending holidays together. The Grimm boys – Chad, Cody and Dylan – often went over to the Warrens’ place and vice versa to play with the Warren boys – Blake, Brett and Beau. Five of the six play or played football at Virginia Tech, with Dylan abstaining to attend Loyola on a lacrosse scholarship. The Grimm brothers also have a sister, Devin, who is Dylan’s twin and who goes to George Mason.

Usually, playtime consisted of football, and while Cody was the smallest of the bunch, he never let that deter him.

“I was fast,” he said.

He eventually dabbled in all sorts of sports, and as the years went by, he became quite proficient in football and lacrosse. One would expect the son of a former NFL great to gravitate toward football. But Russ Grimm never nudged his children in any direction, refusing to become one of those unpopular overbearing parents.

“I left it up to each kid,” he said. “They had been around it [football] all their lives and I wanted to let them be kids and do what they wanted. If they asked me about something related to football, I’d tell them and try to help them. But if they didn’t, I wouldn’t say a thing.”

“He encouraged me to play all sports,” Cody said of his dad. “We were always playing sports, but he never pushed me into playing football. I just always wanted to play. I would have played even if he hadn’t been an NFL player. I just loved the game.”

He excelled in it, too. A strong safety at Oakton High, he earned first-team all-state honors after a senior season in which he recorded 127 tackles and seven interceptions. As a receiver, he caught 17 passes, including six for touchdowns.

“We played him a little everywhere,” Oakton coach Joe Thompson said. “And he was amazing at every position.”

Normally, such gaudy numbers send college recruiters scurrying toward a recruit’s high school or home. Grimm, though, found himself with practically no suitor to host. Only William & Mary showed extensive interest.

It was baffling, to say the least.

“We talked to a ton of schools and everyone said the same thing – ‘We’re not going to scholarship a player that looks like you,’” Thompson said. “And whatever a D-I school says, the I-AAs follow suit.”

The issue, of course, was Grimm’s size, or lack thereof. He stood 5-foot-11 and weighed 175 pounds, and while recruiters drooled over his production, they found it hard to project that at the Division I level. They probably wondered, too, how such a good player with such impressive genes wasn’t actually bigger. After all, Russ Grimm stood over 6-3 and weighed more than 275 pounds.

“Yeah, he’s bigger,” Cody said. “But I’ve got better looks than him.”

Talk about perspective. Not even a college snub could dent his sense of humor.

“I never thought I was going to get an offer,” Cody said. “I was like, 175 pounds. I was small. I had good numbers and I thought I was better than some kids in the area who were getting offers, but I didn’t expect anything. I was realistic. I understood the system because I had been around it all my life. My brother [Chad] had been in the same situation, so I knew what was going on.”

“Cody’s one of the few kids I’ve coached who knew what he was and what he wanted,” Thompson said. “He looked at all the options. But he was confident he could play at the highest level.”

In the end, Tech head coach Frank Beamer offered him a chance to walk-on, as was the case with his brother, Chad, who had walked on two years earlier. Cody also got a walk-on offer from the University of Pittsburgh, but he rejected that one and the one to William & Mary, too.

“My parents had the money saved up for me to go to school anyway, and they told me to go where I wanted,” he said. “My brother was here and they loved Virginia Tech. They wanted me to come here over William & Mary.”

“I was coaching in Pittsburgh at that time and I admit I kind of wanted him to go to Pitt,” Russ Grimm said – and let it be noted that Russ is a Pitt graduate. “But he told me he wanted to walk on at Virginia Tech and I had no problem with that. Chad was having a good time there and the coaches are great. I told him it was his choice. Take it and run with it.”

His career at Tech has been a whirlwind, a productive one at that.

After a redshirt year, he cut his teeth on special teams as a redshirt freshman and a redshirt sophomore, though he played some at whip linebacker his sophomore year and finished out that season with a bang, recording six tackles in the Orange Bowl against Kansas. During the winter following that campaign, he received a summons to Beamer’s office, where Beamer rewarded his work with a scholarship.

“At first, I saw how big the guys were here and I was just trying to get on the dress squad and maybe play some special teams,” Grimm said. “As I started practicing with the guys more and more, I realized they didn’t hit that much harder and they weren’t that much faster than me. I realized I had a chance of playing here and I kept working. Everything sort of worked out.”

Last year turned out to be his breakout year, as he rotated with Cam Martin at whip, and despite just starting one game, he still managed to record 71 tackles, including 14 for a loss, and 7.5 sacks. He ranked third on the team in tackles, second in tackles for a loss and tied for second in sacks.

Not only that, he came up big in big games. He had two sacks against Florida State, an interception against Georgia Tech and eight tackles (two for a loss) at Miami. Then he closed out the year with an interception and a sack against Cincinnati in Tech’s Orange Bowl victory.

“Certain kids just understand the game and certain kids need a lot of reps,” whips and rovers coach Jim Cavanaugh said. “Cody understands things quickly, and I’m going to tell you, the lad is a lot faster than people perceive. People think that because he’s white, he weighs only 205 pounds and he has bird legs that he can’t run, but that’s only feeding into stereotypes. He’s fast and agile.”

This year, it’s been more of the same from Grimm. He ranks among the team leaders in tackles and tackles for a loss, and he keeps accumulating big plays.

There was the sweet strip of Alabama’s Roy Upchurch in the season opener, a forced fumble against Marshall, seven tackles and two hurries against Nebraska, and a team-high 11 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, in a huge victory over Miami. He also made a fabulous play to punch the ball away from Miami tight end Dedrick Epps in the end zone to save a touchdown.

“Cody Grimm might be, pound for pound, the best player on our football team,” Foster said. “He’s intelligent and very savvy. He’s instinctive. He’s a guy I really trust and he has a knack for making big plays. He’s a lot better athlete than people think and he’s faster. Pound for pound, he’s a tremendous football player.”

Even the Big Whistle – Beamer – has been glowing in his remarks about Grimm, who plays on just about all of Beamer’s special teams.

“You talk about a guy who means a lot to our football team,” Beamer said after the Miami game. “If you mention ‘football player,’ that’s the guy you ought to talk about on our team. We’ve got a lot of good players, but I tell you he’s got a knack for this stuff. He understands the game. I really like the way he plays the game.”

Thompson agreed.

“He’s the best practice player I’ve ever had,” he said. “He did something every day in practice that would make you say, ‘Wow!’ and he carried that over to games.

“Cody is the type of kid who just loves football. He’s just a competitor. He’s the type who’s going to take your golf clubs and beat you [in golf].”

Grimm isn’t perfect, though, as evidenced by a few mental errors listed on the grade sheet following the Marshall game.

But mention it and he shrugs it off – which he would do even if he played great.

“Realistically, if we win, I’m not going to be too down on myself if I play bad,” he said. “Now, if we lost and I caused it, I’d be down and upset. But if you go out and try your hardest, you can’t be too down on yourself when it’s all said and done.”

“He’s easy-going and that helps him,” Cavanaugh said. “He’s never uptight. If he makes a mistake, he learns from it and buries it. He’s not going to carry a mistake in the second quarter over into the fourth quarter. That’s a great trait to have.”

As for his future, don’t even bother to ask Cody Grimm about that. He doesn’t think beyond the afternoon’s practice, much less past December when he gets his degree in residential property management.

“I’m not sure yet,” he said. “Maybe there’s a chance of playing in the NFL. Maybe I’ll train if I have a realistic shot. If not, I don’t know what I’ll do. I guess I’ll get a job. Maybe move back home and get a job. I’m not looking down the road that much right now.”

One thing is certain – he’s going to have his fun. His demeanor won’t change. He’s always going to be lighthearted and on the lookout for some unsuspecting soul. He’s confident and carefree, with no plans of changing.

And why would he? It’s an attitude that’s worked well for him up to this point. There’s certainly no reason for him to change now.