Head coach Tom Coughlin would have been proud had he heard Xavier Grimble speak today about the opportunity before him.
“Opportunity is opportunity. It’s not really about how you got here; it’s how you finish,” the 6-4, 261-pound undrafted free agent out of USC said.
Grimble, who picked the Giants ahead of Washington, Atlanta, Oakland and San Francisco, said he hasn’t given a second thought to being passed over in the draft.
He also doesn’t think that going undrafted necessarily spells the end of his dreams of catching passes for an NFL team.
“If you look around the NFL, there are a lot of undrafted free agents and late-round picks that are great players,” he said.
“Where you get drafted, I really don’t think it matters that much. I think there’s an opportunity and what you do with it. If I do well, it probably won’t matter that I wasn’t drafted.”
Listening to Grimble speak, he sometimes sounds like a man who is much older and wiser than his 21 years of age would indicate.
He understands that the world, and in particular the NFL, don’t owe him anything.
“I’ve always been a humbling guy who’s been motivated by certain things and (being undrafted is) one of them,” Grimble said.
“I would have liked to have been drafted, but it’s not really that big of a deal for me. I’m just glad to have a fresh start and a clean state.”
It’s the Giants’ rich tradition at tight end that strikes a chord with Grimble, who tweeted that he spent time watching film of former Giants tight end Mark Bavaro, whose No. 89 jersey just happens to be the one Grimble is wearing these days.
“Just his toughness and humbleness and how he let his actions of the field speak the most,” he said when asked about what he liked most about Bavaro’s game.
“I like to look at the guys who were great before and mold yourself after that. You can’t go wrong with someone who’s already done it before you.”
There are other Giants tight ends who Grimble remembers watching as a kid growing up in Las Vegas, NV whose performances were inspiring.
“I grew up watching Jeremy Shockey (and) Kevin Boss,” Grimble said. “I’m just really excited to have an opportunity to be here and follow in those guys’ footsteps.”
That’s one of the reasons why Grimble gave the Giants’ offer to sign with them the highest priority.
“I heard from the Giants early on; they were one of the first teams to call and show interest and I felt immediately comfortable with them and what they wanted me to come to do and I was extremely happy,” he said of his decision. “I was a bit sad that I didn’t get drafted, but it still worked out because I still get to play football.”
Grimble, who like the rest of the Giants’ offense has been busy trying to learn the new playbook, played three years for the Trojans, recording 69 receptions for 731 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Last year, he tried to fight through some nagging injuries, including a shoulder and an ankle, which likely contributed to his numbers declining from the previous season and which may have caused his draft stock to tumble.
“It definitely slowed me down a bit,” he said of the injuries. “I was unable to perform in some games and in others I just gave what I could. It was definitely a tough situation, but being an older guy in that situation, I really didn’t want to stay off the field. I wanted to go out there and contribute.”
Now that he’s with the Giants, Grimble, who said he’s three classes away from completing his degree in the social sciences (economics), is looking to fit in however the coaches need him to, whether that’s as a blocker or a receiver or both.
“At Southern Cal, that’s one thing we always focused on, being an all-around tight end, which sometimes seems to get lost in the game today,” he said. “I want to be the guy who can block and catch passes and that’s what I work toward.”
Grimble also wants his new coaches to know that he is “a tough, hard-working dude” that’s open to doing anything they need him to.
“If you put the time in and put the work in, you never know what the future holds,” Grimble said when asked if he had what it took to be an All-Pro like Shockey and Bavaro.
“I’m going to work extremely hard. This is the NFL so I’m going to work extremely hard to attack that goal. That’s where I want to be, so hopefully the work takes me there.”