A quarterback well-schooled

Written and produced by Jeff Barlis
Published Jan. 20, 2014 on ESPN.com


A quarterback well-schooled

Written and produced by Jeff Barlis
Published Jan. 20, 2014 on ESPN.com

Will Grier knows the deal.

He has been hearing from Gator fans for months, knows how excited they are about his future, and he's flattered by the attention.

Some have even called him a savior.

"Yeah, I see that all the time," Grier said.

He's rated the No. 3 quarterback prospect in the nation and is one of the most anticipated recruits in Florida's top-10 class.

He gets it.

"When a program is down a little bit, they're looking for anything to put their hope into. It's just something that I hear, and it's great. I thank you for your support, that kind of thing. But I've got a long ways to go. So we'll see."

It's easy to understand the buzz. Grier is 6-foot-2, 186 pounds with a live arm, advanced footwork and a truckload of accolades and accomplishments.

The two-time Gatorade North Carolina Player of the Year finished his career at Davidson Day School with 14,565 yards passing, 2,955 yards rushing and 226 touchdowns in three years of varsity play. He made headlines in 2012 when his 837-yard game set a national record for single-game passing yardage.

The success didn't get to Grier, though. He's a calm, mature, level-headed 18-year-old.

He's excited about the future, too. Grier is enrolled in his first college semester, 17 credits. He wants to major in business and minor in communications, but it's more like a dual-major with football. Grier is taking a crash course with offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.

The moment UF lost No. 2 quarterback Tyler Murphy to transfer, Grier became most likely to back up Jeff Driskel this fall.

It's a situation his father and high school coach, Chad Grier, hopes will go according to script.


Fatherly influence

Fatherly influence

"The perfect scenario would be for [Will] to be able to go play behind an All-American, a Heisman candidate, an NFL prospect," Chad said. "He could learn from a guy that's having success at that level and watch his practice habits and off-field habits and get a feel for playing in the SEC in general.

"On a much smaller scale, when I went to college I was in a similar situation. I played behind a guy who was an NFL prospect and an All-American candidate. It was ideal. He taught me a lot. It was great to have him take me under his wing and get me prepared for what was going to happen. Unfortunately he ended up getting hurt and I had to play as a true freshman."

Will has always had a lot to learn from his dad, the coach and former player. Now that he's preparing to play the same position in college, Will can turn to Chad for even more advice.

Chad started his career at Division I-AA Richmond, backing up Bob Bleier in the mid-80s. Then he transferred to East Carolina, where eventually he was Jeff Blake's backup.

"I was the most popular guy in Greenville," Chad said. "Jeff struggled a little bit [in 1990]. He was hurt a little bit. So, man, every time he threw a bad ball I could hear 'em screaming for me. They'd chant my name. That's because I wasn't the guy. If you're the guy doing well, they're going to love you. If you're the guy not doing well, they're going to love your backup.

"So that may be what [Will is] getting into. I don't know Jeff Driskel from Adam's house cat, but I see a big, good-looking kid that's got a big arm and can run. I think he came with a lot of expectations. And I hope he gets healthy, and I hope he has a tremendous year. But if he doesn't they're going to start calling for Will, and I'd hate for that to happen to Driskel. Because the very same thing, it could be Will one day.

"When you're the backup, you're the next guy. Until you get out there and face live bullets, everybody thinks you're the greatest thing ever."

Undoubtedly, there is pressure on Will Grier. He comes to Florida with high hopes and a good chance that he'll be one injury away from taking over at quarterback.

As a dad, as a coach and as a former player, Chad knows exactly what Will is getting into. He says backup quarterback is the toughest position in football.

"If you're the backup running back, the backup safety, the backup linebacker, backup anything else, you're going to play," Chad said. "You may not be in the program as a starter, but you're going to play. If you're the backup quarterback you have to be ready to play. The next play you might be the guy for the rest of the game, the rest of the year.

"But it's very hard when you're hyper-competitive to prepare yourself for that and be all excited, ready to go, and then game day comes and goes and you never break a sweat."

As an ECU Pirate, that pretty much summed up Chad's career.

"I've got one record that still stands from East Carolina," he said, "and that's the most consecutive quarters wearing a baseball hat."

His own fond memories aside, Chad believes Will has the right mindset for his first year at UF.

"If they want him to redshirt, he'll redshirt," he said. "He's ready to go run the scout team. … He's champing at the bit to get into it."

But one thing Chad can't advise Will on is the hype his son has heard, seen and felt before even taking a snap.

"I've heard it," Will said. "Especially nowadays with social media stuff. But I think overall, they're fans. That's what they're supposed to do. I don't expect anything less. You know, it's something I acknowledge, and I want to show my appreciation for their support and that type of thing. But I just don't get too much into it.

"They'll be excited until I throw my first interception."

Thanks to his dad, whenever that happens Will should be well prepared for what comes next.

Will and Chad Grier teamed up for three years of success at Davidson (N.C.) Day private school.

Will and Chad Grier teamed up for three years of success at Davidson (N.C.) Day private school.

Quarterback Chad Grier (7) might be best remembered as Jeff Blake's backup at East Carolina.

Quarterback Chad Grier (7) might be best remembered as Jeff Blake's backup at East Carolina.


Will Grier Q&A

Will Grier Q&A

Would you say Florida coach Will Muschamp has a similar personality as your dad?

"Coach Muschamp, he's awesome. I can't wait to play for him just because he's intense and passionate about the game, but he's also that type of father figure to all of his players. He's very close with his players. I'm excited to play for him. I think he's a great coach."

What has Muschamp told you to expect?

"He said to come in with the attitude that you're going to start. Not because I am going to start, but because that's the attitude I need to develop to be successful. He said, 'Just let whatever happens, happen. All you can control is you. Look, we're moving to a spread offense, uptempo and pro-style.' All this stuff, he originally said, 'is for Jeff [Driskel], Tyler [Murphy] and you.' Obviously Tyler left so they're going to bring in another guy, but this is the direction he wants the offense to go in. Jeff is obviously a great athlete, a great quarterback too, so I think he's trying to form the offense to be an uptempo kind of thing for guys like me and Jeff, that type of quarterback. So I'm working to be the guy that can do it after Jeff."

Are you ready for college?

"I'm really excited. I'm just ready for this next chapter. I'm ready to get school started here in January and start working out with coach [Jeff] Dillman and developing my body and my game as a quarterback. It's right here in front of me and I can't wait to get started."

What are you looking forward to the most about enrolling at Florida?

"Getting school started is something I'm looking forward to just because this is my degree, these are my studies. I'm ready to kind of get started with those. I've got a couple of cool classes lined up for January. Other than that, I think between Coach [Kurt] Roper and Chris Leak, that's all the quarterback development you could ask for, so I'm excited to work with them."

How helpful is it to enroll in January?

"I think it'll help tremendously. It will be a huge advantage for me to get ahead in school, and football-wise I'll jump into the playbook a lot earlier than most guys. So as far as development, it'll be a huge advantage. There's no negatives about it. It's a really good thing to do and I'm glad I've got the opportunity to do it."

Are you willing to redshirt?

"Whatever is best for the team is what I'm going to do. If I need to play backup or if I need to start, I'm going to do it. So wherever I fit best is going to happen, and I'm OK with anything. I don't prefer one thing over another. It's all about development and learning to do what's best for the team so we can win."

What are your thoughts on your recruiting class at UF?

"I'm really excited about it. There's all types of drama whipping around. We'll see what happens on signing day. That'll be the truth. With what we've got coming in, I'm really excited about what I think our potential is to accomplish. I'm excited to get it rollin'."

What style of play do you prefer?

"I'm ready for whatever we do, and I think he's going to do what's best for the team and what's best in situations. That's kind of what I've already been used to throughout high school, so I don't think it'll be a very hard transition."

What are your strengths?

"I'm a pretty athletic guy. I've played three sports my whole life. It's made me pretty athletic. I can do pretty much any offense. I pick up on stuff really quick. I've done pretty much everything in high school. I'd like to throw first, and I have the ability to run if I need to. I wouldn't say I'm an option-type quarterback or a running quarterback that can throw. I'd say I'm a throwing quarterback that can run. The perfect offense would be something where we could spread it around the field and then they also have to worry about the threat of me running the ball. So they've got to keep an extra guy in the box because I'm a threat to run as well. But I think I can do pretty much anything. I've grown up doing pretty much anything."

Would you say that leadership is something you'll be trying to improve?

"[My dad] has always told me being a leader on the field is great, and he thinks I can do it. But off the field you have to be even more of a leader. Between the recruiting class and pulling everybody together and in the weight room, you have to be a leader in every aspect of your life to be a successful quarterback. I believe in that and I'm working towards that.

"I think I lead by example really well. I try to keep a clean nose in pretty much everything aspect. But as far as this recruiting class is going, I've reached out to a lot of people and talked to a lot of people. I've put a lot of time into it and think I've done a pretty good job with it. But I think the best quality of my leadership is leading by example. I'm really passionate about the game and I prepare and play it the right way and I think people see that and want to play it with me.

"[Speaking up] is always a working process. You've got to find a happy medium with that. I'm working on it. I'll definitely get in somebody's grille if they're doing something wrong, that type of thing. I'm all about encouraging guys, too. But it's always a working process to try to find a happy medium and relate to your guys, but at the same time you've got to be that leader. It's what the quarterback position demands you to do. So you've got to kind of find that balance."

Do you have an NFL inspiration?

"I've been compared to two different people. Different people say I'm a lot like Aaron Rodgers, because he can throw but run when he needs to and he's really competitive. People also started saying this past year my senior year, when everybody was dropping eight [defenders in coverage] on us and bailing out and I had to run the ball a lot more and make shorter passes, so they called me RGIII this year. I agree more with the Aaron Rodgers thing. I throw first and run when I need to. I just happen to need to run a lot more this year because people were bailing out on us."

What is your relationship with Chris Leak, a fellow Florida QB from North Carolina?

"I met him recently. He just came this past year to school, and that's when I met him for a visit or something after Friday Night Lights. I talked to him a lot ever since then. We've become really close over the last couple of months. He came to my school a couple of times, and every time I've been down there I've talked to him. He's from the same area. Actually, his parents live like 15 minutes from my school. So it's just kind of funny, he came out of the same little [place]. He comes up to the school and we're just talking about all the stuff around Charlotte that we both know. It's kind of cool talking to him and getting close to him. He's a good guy, kind of had the same situation, same type of thing that I'm doing, going pretty far away from home to a big-time program. So he gives me a lot of [advice]. He can kind of advise me in the right way."

Do you feel the pressure to lift Florida back to the college football elite?

"No. I never have. I'm focused on what I need to do. I've always been the type of guy when I know what I want to do I get it done. So I've got my eyes set on something and I'm gonna go get it. I'm focused on it."

Is getting recognized nothing new since your whole family is famous now?

"Yeah [laughs], I get recognized sometimes for being a football player and sometimes for being Nash's brother. That's not going to be an issue. I've kinda dealt with that already. It's funny. The whole quarterback thing is usually for sports fans and adults and that type of thing. Now, like 13-, 14-, 15-year-old girls want to take pictures with me because I'm Nash's brother. So it's just a whole different type of being recognized. It's funny. It's not a big deal. It's just how it is and it doesn't really affect me too much, so I'm not worried about it."

Are you more mature because of the attention surrounding your family?

"Yeah, I think so. I've kind of grown up with it. Since my sophomore year I started getting offers and things like that. I was probably the most hated-on quarterback in all of North Carolina history. So a lot of people knew me because there were a lot of people who would doubt me or talk about me, positive or negative. But people knew my name because of it. Ever since then it's like, 'Oh there's that Will Grier kid' every time I went to a camp. People who were around high school football kind of knew who I was. Then all of a sudden my brother blows up. That just added to everything. People know his name and my name and put two and two together. So it just kind of blew up. For good or for bad, for better or for worse, it's just kind of something I'm used to and dealt with. I guess I'm ready for it."

What do you mean by most hated-on quarterback?

"It's just I play private school. The public school district I lived in doesn't have a very good football team, and they're not very strong academically. And I'm wanting to push academics and play for a successful high school team, so I play private school ball. We had success, and any time you have success you're going to have haters. 'You're a private school, you don't play anybody.' They said that all the time. You can't really listen to it, you just gotta go and play and ignore that kind of thing. Like I said, for better or for worse it got my name around quick. Nash getting famous didn't really help."

What's been your reaction to Nash's fame?

"I was happy for Nash and proud of him. He's always been kind of a different one. Us Grier boys have always been kind of athletic and play sports all the time, but now he's kind of ventured out on his own. He's become really successful at something else you wouldn't really expect from one of us. But I'm proud of him. I think he'll do really well in that business. But I wasn't mad. Now if he beat me in a basketball game that'd be different. But this is separate. I'm proud of him. I think he'll do really well. It's a cool thing."

Quarterback Will Grier committed to Florida on Dec. 19, 2012.

Quarterback Will Grier committed to Florida on Dec. 19, 2012.

I’m really excited. I’m just ready for this next chapter. I’m ready to get school started here in January and start working out with coach [Jeff] Dillman and developing my body and my game as a quarterback. It’s right here in front of me and I can’t wait to get started.
— Florida QB Will Grier
At 6-foot-3, 186 pounds, Will Grier admits he needs to hit the training table and work in UF's strength and conditioning program.

At 6-foot-3, 186 pounds, Will Grier admits he needs to hit the training table and work in UF's strength and conditioning program.