Nov. 7, 2002
By Adam Porcelli
Coming into this season, the Notre Dame football team had to replace its top three running backs from the 2001 squad. To fill this void in the backfield, head coach Tyrone Willingham and the rest of the Irish turned to sophomore running back Ryan Grant.
Last season, Grant played in five games and rushed for 110 yards on 29 carries. In 2002, he has had two single game rushing totals for more yards (132 yards vs. Michigan and 190 yards vs. Air Force) and two other 100-yard rushing performances (Stanford and Boston College). Leading the team in rushing with 920 yards on 202 carries, Grant is on pace to become the school’s seventh player ever (12th time overall) to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. To account for this season’s success, Grant has a simple explanation for his improvement.
“Hard work is more responsible than anything else for the change from last year to this year,” said Grant.
“I’ve always worked hard and feel one of my greatest assets is my ability to do so. I take pride in my work ethic. I am here, on this team, because I’ve never been complacent.”
Since the end of last season, Grant has specifically worked on listening to his coaches and improving upon his skills.
“To get better, I’ve paid attention to what the coaches have asked of me and I’ve worked on all aspects of my game,” said Grant.
“I gained about 10 pounds and worked on my catching ability, leg strength, quickness, and pass blocking. To help my field vision, I also watched a lot of game film of different running backs. The overall goal is for me to become as complete a back as possible.”
Grant has continued working towards this goal throughout the season and believes he has been improving each week.
“I continue to feel more and more comfortable out there and have continued listening to my coaches,” said the 6-1, 211-pound back.
“Early in the year, I was still anxious to get up to the line and not always let the play unfold. The coaches have been telling me how I need to work on my patience. I need to wait and then accelerate once that hole opens.”
There are also some other aspects, not related to his playing skills, Grant attributes credit for his improvement.
“I think just playing more has helped me be more comfortable and confident,” said Grant.
“I felt comfortable and confident last year, but I know my role better this year and the rest of the team expects more out of me. I’ve always been confident that I could do the job, but I get even more confidence from knowing the rest of the guys are behind me and believe in me and my abilities.”
Despite his success this season, Grant is positive there is still room for improvement. He plans on continuing to work hard to become an even better rusher.
“I just want to say hungry and continue getting better. I love going out there and doing what I do. In order to be successful, you need to have a love of the game. As long as I have the hunger and keep working hard, I know I can improve even more. You have to be willing to keep working hard for this team because there is always someone behind you who is willing to.”
As long as Grant adheres to his work ethic, there could be a long wait behind him.