Playing his collegiate years at Shippensburg University before going undrafted in 2006, and then spending a season in Europe, the path to NFL stardom seemed like an unlikely route for Brent Grimes. He had to grind it out the hard way.
After eventually earning a roster spot on the Falcons in 2007, Grimes proved his value on special teams and found his was onto the defense two years later, in 2009. In his first season as a starter he recorded 66 tackles and six interceptions while gaining the respect of his teammates and the reputation of being a ball hawk.
New Bucs CB Brent Grimes Photo by: Getty Images
“I haven’t seen Matt Ryan back down from too many corners,” head coach Dirk Koetter said, recalling his time in Atlanta. “But Matt would tell me everyday, ‘We can’t throw this route on that side because Grimes is over there.’ And I was like, ‘What? We can go against that guy!’ And he had about 15 picks in that first week I was there.”
For Grimes, it’s always been about splash plays. The 5-foot-10 cornerback knew, with his background and size, that he would have to stand out on the field and make others take notice. Since 2009, during seasons in Atlanta and Miami, he’s intercepted 34 passes en route to four Pro Bowls.
“Making plays on the ball, I feel like that’s my strong suit,” Grimes said. “I go get the ball. That’s what wins games in the league, making plays on the football when the ball’s in the air and I feel like that’s a strong suit for me.
“It’s my technique,” he continued. “My athletic ability helps me a great deal as far as getting in and out of breaks and jumping. And just knowing the game, film work and things like that. I brought it up earlier, but genetics is a great deal. I guess I’m just lucky to be able to do some of the things I can.”
Grimes made it clear that he’s excited to be back in Mike Smith’s defense, the system that introduced him to the NFL, as well as an abundance of young talent on the Bucs roster. The feeling is mutual.
Both Koetter and Licht spoke of finding the “right type of guy” and “right type of fit”, both of which describes Grimes. At 32, Grimes is still playing at a high level – evidenced by three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2013-15 – and has shown no signs of slowing down. Tampa Bay is confident that age is only a number and that Grimes has at least a couple of great years left as a shutdown cornerback. What’s more, the moves in free agency – signing quality players at positions of need – have given the team more flexibility this April.
“(Grimes) plays like a young guy,” general manager Jason Licht said. “He still has a lot of energy. I would probably card him if I were a bartender. He looks young. He’s one of those guys that, despite being a little older than the average player, continue to make plays. And that’s Brent. He jumps off the film every time you put it on. He’s extremely athletic. One of the most athletic corners in the league and I’m sure he’s got a lot of gas left in the tank.
Bucs CB Brent Grimes – Photo by: Getty Images
“Our goal in free agency is to make our team better,” Licht continued. “It just so happened that we were able to address some needs. In the draft we’re still going to have the same approach. It’s still going to be the best player, whether we’re picking at nine or moving back, it’s going to be the best player that makes us better. This does help a little bit, though, especially with the quality of player in Brent and the other signings. It does help in giving us more options, and we always like options here.”
With the addition of Grimes, Tampa Bay currently has six cornerbacks on its roster. Along with Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks, the other two presumed starters, the Bucs corners also include Jude Adjei-Barimah, C.J. Roberts and Joel Ross. Sterling Moore and Mike Jenkins both remain unrestricted free agents.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
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