D’Vonte Grant is undersized for a linebacker but never underappreciated.
Four years ago, Grant, who is 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds, was a walk-on at N.C. A&T, eager to earn a roster spot. The Aggies needed bodies to make up for the loss of scholarships because of NCAA sanctions. The timing was right, and so was the fit.
“It’s all about opportunity,” he said. “I thought I could help the team. I felt with the new coaching staff that came in, I could seize the moment. I felt it was my job to compete.”
Said coach Rod Broadway: “We were looking for cheap guys who could play. It worked out well for everybody.”
Now a fifth-year senior on scholarship, Grant proved to be more than a practice body. The Mallard Creek High graduate led N.C. A&T in tackles his first three years and twice earned second-team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference honors. In 2013, Grant racked up 102 tackles, a league-best four fumbles recovered and three interceptions. Despite his stature, Grant’s instincts and speed have more than compensated.
“It’s just being responsible, playing hard and not trying to be selfish,” he said. “Sometimes you have to learn the tricks of the trade of college football and being undersized, I use my speed.”
Grant put it to use in N.C. A&T’s biggest games last year, in which the Aggies went 7-4. In a 24-21 win at Appalachian State, he scored on a 57-yard interception return, blocked a kick and made eight tackles. Against rival N.C. Central, Grant made a career-best 13 tackles and had an interception and fumble return in a 28-0 win.
“Wherever the defense needs me – if they need me to make tackles or make plays, I’m willing to do it all,” he said.
That attitude is what makes Grant one of N.C. A&T’s best players and a cog and the inspirational leader of what might be the league’s best defense. He never contemplates the disadvantages, only the possibility of winning the next battle.
“It’s been like that most of my whole life,” Grant said. “I never doubted anything. I knew one day I’d be able to play. I wanted to contribute and help a team out by playing football.”
The Aggies, who were picked third in the MEAC preseason poll, believe they can challenge league heavyweights Bethune-Cookman and S.C. State. Grant will have a major role in how they fares.
“He’s a walk-on, but he’s one of our best players,” Broadway said. “He runs really well, accepts coaching and has not only developed into one of our better players but one of our leaders. I’ve seen a lot of growth in him, and I’m really proud of him and his growth as a person and football player.”