Will Grier and the Carolina Panthers have literally been intertwined since birth.
He grew up in nearby Davidson, and his family owned personal seat licenses (Section 229) at Bank of America Stadium. He owned about six Steve Smith jerseys. Grier was even born the same year as the Panthers’ inaugural season (1995).
So, of course he grew up a Carolina fan. The team gave the Grier family one more reason to cheer Friday night, selecting Will with the No. 100 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
The feeling still hasn’t subsided.
“I’m still riding cloud nine, trying not to let it fade,” Grier said during his introductory press conference Saturday at the stadium. “It’s a great opportunity. I can’t believe it happened but I’m very happy it did.”
Thankfully for Grier, he won’t have to move cities as he begins his NFL career. Now he can focus on his next-biggest adjustment, from starter and Heisman Trophy candidate to backup.
It’s the latest in a line of several roles the West Virginia quarterback has played over the past few years.
Grier’s daughter Eloise was born in 2016, the same year he married his wife, Jeanne. It’s also the same year he transferred from Florida to West Virginia — one year removed from an eight-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, which led to him falling out of favor with his head coach and ultimately joining the Mountaineers.
The former Davidson Day standout learned to handle his new responsibilities as a father and husband while he rehabilitated his image and acclimated to a new team, school and environment. But if he struggled internally at any point, it’d be news to Jake Spavital, Grier’s former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at West Virginia.
“Very calculated in everything he does,” Spavital told the Observer. “Has to be efficient. Juggled all responsibility extremely well.
“He doesn’t get rattled. Very optimistic about anything that is thrown at him in life. Never fake with anything he does, very genuine person.”
Rather than hang onto any obstacle, Grier “kind of always knew better days are ahead,” said Spavital, who is now the head coach at Texas State.
Jeanne helped inspire Grier’s brand of optimism, sharing his belief that their work would pay off. When it did Friday night, the emotions finally released.
“It’s been a long road. Ellie turns 3 in November, so we kind of raised a family in college together, which is hard,” Grier said. “I had long hours in the stadium, doing school and everything else. (Jeanne) has been awesome, she’s been my rock through all this and very supportive, letting me do my long hours at the stadium and chase my dream.
“She cried for about an hour straight last night, just because it finally happened. It’s been a long time coming.”
While Grier returns to his hometown, it’s not as his favorite team’s savior by any means. Cam Newton is rightfully entrenched as Carolina’s franchise quarterback and should remain so moving forward. Grier’s role within the organization is to provide depth and competition at a premium position.
Like most rookies, Grier said he’s willing to work for and accept whichever role the Panthers assign him.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything, so I’m excited to play my role here — whatever that may be,” he said. “I’m going to be ready to go and try my best to help this team win.
“I think with the situation as it is right now, I’m going to give Cam as much support as I can ... Part of my job is to stay ready, whether that’s now or a couple years down the road. But what I can say is I take advantage of opportunities. I think the Panthers just got the best quarterback in this draft, and I think long term we’re going to win a lot of football games and we’re going to bring a Super Bowl to Charlotte.”
Better days may still be ahead for Grier, whether as a backup, a starter or a Super Bowl champion.
For now, though, his present day is pretty good.