Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Going pro may be a snap

NFL teams have eye on senior

April 19, 2002
Senior long snapper Tony Grant stands in position ready to snap the ball Thursday on the football practice field. Grant could be drafted in the weekend —

No one at Beaner’s Gourmet Coffee recognized him as he sipped an Orange Brain Freeze smoothie that matched his orange American Eagle T-shirt.

His gold chain, with a tiny gold football dangling at the end, didn’t give him away either. But while electrical engineering senior Tony Grant is trying to graduate like many of the students at the coffeehouse, 270 W. Grand River Ave., last year’s Spartan long snapper hopes to be signed in this weekend’s NFL Draft at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Grant, 23, who will watch the draft in East Lansing with his friends and family, said the experience has been overwhelming.

“It’s really weird,” Grant said. “Agents were picking me up in limousines, I went to L.A. and stayed on Sunset Boulevard right on the strip there. It’s just so surreal I was shocked, I didn’t know what was going on.

“It’s weird to have an agent, but I’m getting used to it.”

Even though he may play in the NFL, Grant said it’s understandable if he doesn’t get mobbed like former tailback T.J. Duckett, the Spartans’ top prospect in this weekend’s draft.

“It’s not like the quarterback, there’s no glory in it at all,” Grant said. “No one cares about the long snapper unless something bad happens. It’s actually kind of a goofy position if you think about what you’re doing. It’s probably why a lot of people don’t do it.

“It’s crazy, but it actually could be a ticket.”

The Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers all have come to campus to see Grant work out. He’s also talked to the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills.

Grant’s agent Kevin Gold said if he doesn’t get picked in the final round by Washington, he could be signed as a free agent on Sunday night.

“As the seventh round comes to an end, teams call looking to sign players,” said Gold, a friend of the Redskins’ special teams coach. “If I had a crystal ball, I would hope Washington would take him, but if not, there’s some other teams interested in picking him up as a free agent.”

Gold represents long snappers exclusively, including three already in the NFL. He said many people project Grant as one of the top three snappers eligible for this year’s draft.

“Teams look for guys who can get the ball back quick and accurate, meaning in the same location with a tight spiral in under .72 or .73 seconds, and a guy who can also block and provide coverage down field,” Gold said.

“A lot of guys snap the ball and then they don’t get down field quick enough. I think he does have pretty good ability to get down field and cover, plus he’s a smart kid and that always helps.”

Grant’s roommate and best friend, packaging senior Joel Mesman, played for MSU for two years before a career-ending knee injury.

“I’m already nervous as I think about it,” Mesman said. “He’s my best friend, it would be great. I’d probably move out there with him. I’d be very proud.”

But Grant doesn’t try to lay to rest stereotypes about long snappers’ lack of athletic ability.

“(MSU head) Coach (Bobby) Williams called me the worst athlete on the team,” Grant said. “There’s just not a whole lot involved in it. It’s no joke, all they really tell me to do is snap. I obviously can’t be immobile. I have to be able to snap, I have to be quick with my feet and get back to block.”

Grant isn’t only being courted by NFL teams. He turned down a job with General Motors Corp. last semester because he knew he would be working on football. He’s also been interviewing across the country, including at a company in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve made the mistake earlier of telling people I may be going to play football, and they just wax me off their list no matter what my credentials are,” Grant said. “So these last two, I told them I have things going with other companies. The NFL is just another company.

“Coach Williams taught me that trick. He said, ‘You don’t have to tell them that, just tell them you have an interview with another company.’ That’s what it is I guess, it’s not like I’m lying to them because It’s not a for sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t know why they do that, but they have to look out for their best interest, too, I guess.”

The electrical engineering graduate school at MSU is waiting to see if Grant is drafted before they admit him. He carries a 3.45 grade-point average and is president of an electrical engineering students’ honors society.

Even though Grant has other options to fall back on, his heart and mind are set on the NFL.

“I’ll be extremely disappointed,” Grant said. “I just want to get a foot in the door because I think I can work hard.

“I didn’t go through all this for nothing. I’ve been working hard. Ever since I knew that I had a shot, it has been my main focus.

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