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CAA Feature Series: W&M's Grimes, The Musician & the Beast
The football player and the music major. It’s not often that these two worlds collide. It’s even more rare when the football player is the music major. Welcome to the world of William and Mary senior running back Jonathan Grimes, who tickles the ivory equally as well as he runs the pigskin.
Grimes’ father had always wanted him to play the piano and signed him up for lessons at the age of seven. Grimes acquiesced but also held a burning desire to play football. His father planned to hold him out from the local leagues for another year, but Grimes was persistent and promised his father he would remain as dedicated to the piano as he was the pigskin.
That promise continues to present itself 14 years later as the Palmyra, N.J., native has proven himself a true student of the piano and the game. In a world in which children often abandon music in order to focus solely on sports, it is not often a talent like Grimes surfaces in the collegiate ranks. His dedication to both his gifts has undoubtedly paid dividends in his first three years at the College.
As the most decorated player in the history of the CAA with eight conference recognitions,
Grimes has consistently asserted himself as a force on the field. The reigning CAA Special Teams Player of the Year and three-time all-conference selection led the league and ranked among the top-25 nationally with 135.0 all-purpose yards per game while ranking fourth in the CAA with 73.9 rushing yards per game. Grimes, who was named to the Walter Payton Award Watch List this past season, will open his senior campaign as the Tribe’s all-time leader with 5,445 all-purpose yards and inside the program’s career top 10 in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, rushing attempts and kickoff return yards.
When asked what he considers his greatest accomplishment, the focus turns away from himself and towards the team. He says, “The team’s conference championship this past year probably means the most to me. It was great for the team and the school. Everyone was very proud. That was a big moment.”
It is this kind of humility and team orientation that struck a chord with Grimes’ teammates, who chose him as a captain for the coming season. He looks forward to his newfound role, explaining, “I’m really planning to be a leader and to lead by example. I want to represent the team well. I want my teammates to have their voices and opinions heard and to get a sense of what direction the team is headed. It’s important to get everyone on the same page and for everyone to be working hard towards one common goal.”
This common goal is unquestionably a national championship. Few would doubt the Tribe’s ability to make a run at the title given the team’s abundant talent at essentially every position. Nevertheless, capturing the program’s first-ever national crown will involve competing at a high level against what is always a high level of competition in the CAA. According to Grimes, it also means “having a killer instinct and getting an early lead on teams. We have to take one game at a time because you can’t sleep on anybody.”
Grimes obviously understands the importance of keeping things in perspective. It is this mentality that has led him to achieve a successful balance in life on and off the field. He readily admits the challenging nature of the College’s music curriculum, saying, “It’s not an easy major and you have to put in the work. But just like football, it’s my passion and I’m willing to make the effort.”
That effort has extended beyond the classroom into the choir loft. Grimes, who has sung in church choirs since childhood and continues to do so today, has been around the church all his life. This is just another one of the values instilled in him by his hard-working father, a truck driver by trade.
The future is certainly bright for Gregory Grimes’ son, who has long had aspirations of a career in the National Football League. So, while he will look to earn his degree and take his team to unprecedented heights this year, his focus must also be on taking himself to the next level as an NFL draftee. He explains, “I’ve wanted to be in the NFL since I was little. Since I have a shot, I’m going to try to do everything I can to work hard and stay healthy.”
Given his musical prowess and passion, Grimes also hopes to follow in the footsteps of legends Herbie Hancock and Leon Huff to achieve what already promises to be a successful career in the music industry. “I would love to make music for a living and be a producer. I’ve already started making music with [Tribe redshirt junior] Kelly FitzGerald. We record stuff all the time. I’m really interested in making my own music and hope someone will end up liking it.”
If his music is anything like the sweet rhythm Grimes has found on the field, there should be no question of liking it as it will surely amaze and impress. There is also no doubt that Grimes has found a harmony in his life between his two incredible gifts. He is a true chameleon (to borrow the name of Hancock’s timeless tune) who has struck a chord with his team, his professors, churchgoers, and Tribe fans alike.
By Zach Burrus, Colonial Athletic Association