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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Grandon gets his shot at nickelback

Grandon+gets+his+shot+at+nickelback

When Jourdon Grandon suffered a broken foot during his senior year of high school, he didn’t know how to react. It was the first major injury of his life.

But instead of sulking or taking a “why me?” attitude through missing almost his entire senior year of high school and then playing on only the scout team in practice last year at Arizona, he’s parlayed it into a role as the Wildcats’ starting nickelback in his second year on campus.

Grandon, who head coach Mike Stoops said will start “if things continue the way they are,” has transformed into a key contributor in the Arizona secondary, which may be one of the strongest units in the Pac-12.

But Grandon, now a redshirt freshman, doesn’t credit one thing for elevating his game. Instead, he said he’s completely reworked himself as a player in nearly two years of watching games from the sidelines.

“I had to improve on everything — agility, speed, strength, all that,” Grandon said. “It was just a matter of getting comfortable, really.”

The biggest transformation of Grandon may have been mentally. Instead of having everything thrown at him as a true freshman, he was able to study the playbook during his redshirt season while digesting tips from the experienced members of Arizona’s secondary.

“It was great because I was able to learn from the past nickel, which was (Joe Perkins),” Grandon said. “I was just able to watch. And being in film and understanding what they were doing — it just gave me a real grasp of how to play the nickel position.”

Perkins has since graduated, but Arizona’s secondary still has two players — Trevin Wade and Rob Golden — who can act as extra coaches on the field because of their extensive knowledge of the Wildcats’ defense.

Having those two as a security blanket has allowed Grandon to be more aggressive since getting his first shot as a starter during spring practice.

“If I need help or if I have a question, I can go talk to Rob or I can go talk to T-Wade,” Grandon said. “They know the defense in and out. It makes my job a lot easier, because they both know everything. I ask one question and boom, they’ve got it for me.”

Grandon’s mental evolution isn’t something that’s flown under the radar. Senior quarterback Nick Foles has seen huge growth in Grandon’s maturity over the past 12 months.

“Last year, he was young, a freshman, inexperienced,” Foles said. “Now he’s being more aggressive … he’s come a long ways.”

That growth may have not been possible if Grandon’s foot injury hadn’t forced him to take a step back and take a more cognitive approach to the game.

But even though that injury cost him nearly all of his senior season in high school, Grandon said that things have worked out for the best.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” Grandon said. “You can be as athletic as you want, but without knowing what to do, it’s not gonna help you.”

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