William & Mary

Grimes a virtuoso on and off the football field

Who is the most decorated football player in Colonial Athletic Association history?

It's not Tim Hightower, the University of Richmond running back who helped the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals reach a Super Bowl. It's not Pat Szczur, who gave up stellar football career at Villanova to sign with the Chicago Cubs. It's not even Delaware's Joe Flacco, a first-round draft pick and three-time playoff quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens.

It's William & Mary tailback Jonathan Grimes '12. Here's a partial list of his accomplishments: First-team All-CAA, 2009 and 2010 . . . CAA special teams player of the year in 2010 . . . . Preseason All-American selection by the College Sporting News, The Sports Network and Phil Steele.

And the best part for Tribe football fans? He's still got one season to go.

"I just like running," said Grimes, a music major. "I like getting the ball and making people miss; scoring touchdowns. It's fun to be a running back."

Football was the first big thing to catch young Grimes' interest. His father, a former player at Morgan State, started to groom his son at age 7 for his old position: quarterback. But as Grimes grew, it became obvious that he was more suited for running back, the other player in the backfield.

"We have an athletic family," he said. "I would always see my brother and my dad working on stuff. I always wanted to play, ever since I'd seen a football."

In high school in Palmyra, N.J., Grimes set the single-season school record for yards and touchdowns – 1,925 and 33, respectively __ at the end of a career that put him on the all-state team. He arrived at William & Mary ready to turn the Tribe’s traditionally vaunted offense on its head.

He succeeded. In the three seasons prior to Grimes' arrival, the Tribe never managed better than a 4-7 record. With Grimes running through the opposition, the Green and Gold can boast of two playoff appearances, a Colonial Athletic Association championship, and several appearances among the nation’s top 10.

Grimes was on the Walter Payton Award watch list as top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA) and was named CAA special teams player of the year after last season. But he is quick to share the credit.

"My main focus is always trying to get a win for the team. Just the team," he said. "Everything else will come along with it. If you do a good job to help the team as a player, usually good things will happen."

There's a lot more to Grimes than just football and academics. He sings in the College’s Ebony Expressions gospel choir and is often found playing piano and writing his own music with his roommate.

"We lay down all kinds of things, really," he said. "Some R&B, funk, (music with) a more jazzy feel. We're not really set to a particular genre — we just like what sounds good."

Grimes' musical palette ranges wildly: from Maroon 5 to Herbie Hancock and even some country. Lessons learned on the treble clef can even translate to the gridiron.

"You have to practice, of course, to perform as well as you can for each," he said. "Once you know the basics then you can put your own feel into it. With football, you have to concentrate on your footwork and your assignment — once you've executed that, the rest of it is on you to put your own finesse on it. It's the same thing with music."

Grimes will lead the Tribe through a gauntlet of tough opponents this fall, beginning Saturday at 6 p.m. in Charlottesville against the University of Virginia. In the Tribe’s 2009 upset of the Cavaliers, Grimes rushed for 46 yards on 19 carries. He also had four catches for eight yards and three kick returns for 62 yards.

There's an added twist to Saturday's game, courtesy of Mother Nature. Hurricane Irene last weekend put a major crimp in coach Jimmye Laycock's ability to plan for the Cavaliers. Many players evacuated the campus and returned to their homes to ride out the storm. At one point, Laycvock and staff were scrambling to get the players back in time for a Monday evening practice. Several were stranded at home because of downed trees.

"It's not really what you want to be doing as you're getting ready to prepare for a game like this one against Virginia," Laycock told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "Fortunately everybody is safe, and that's the most important thing."

Power was restored Monday morning to the Jimmye Laycock Football Center, offering coach and staff the opportunity to work under comfortable conditions. Eight years ago when Hurricane Isabel hit, Laycock watched game film "in a handball court with a generator in order to game-plan," he told the Times-Dispatch.

In addition to UVA, old rivals Delaware, James Madison and Richmond are back again, as well as burgeoning rival Old Dominion University.

Great things are expected of the Tribe, which was ranked third in the Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS preseason poll, behind only Eastern Washington and Appalachian State. The 2010 NCAA playoff loss at home to Georgia Southern still does not sit well with Grimes, now a team co-captain for his senior campaign.

"I've been thinking about this since last season was over," he said. "I think we have a solid group coming back. We have a lot of leadership, extending beyond the captains. A lot of people are going to step up and contribute greatly. We're going to be able to find ways to win.

"I never go in expecting a loss. If we work hard and we concentrate on what we have to do, we'll be fine."

Tribe tidbits: Beginning Wednesday night, Sept. 7, the Chesapeake Bank Jimmye Laycock Show will broadcast live from Buffalo Wild Wings in New Town (4918 Courthouse Street in James City County) on the Tribe's flagship stations 92.3 FM The Tide and 107.9 Bach FM. The show will start at 6:30 p.m. each Wednesday with Laycock’s live interview with play-by-play announcer Jay Colley airing from 7-7:30. Fans unable to pick up the broadcast locally can listen online. The show scheduled for tonight (Aug. 31) has been cancelled.