While watching Virginia Tech's come-from-behind Belk Bowl win Thursday over Arkansas on TV, Lafayette senior receiver and Hokies recruit Hezekiah Grimsley mentioned to his mother how humbling it was to realize next year, someone will be watching him in maroon and burnt orange.
As Virginia Tech climbed back within 10 points before leaving Charlotte, N.C. with a 35-24 victory, Grimsley said, "It's crazy that I know I'll be on the sideline or in the game, people watching me. It's a big deal to me. I couldn't even have expected to be in this position right now."
Grimsley, the 2016 Virginia Gazette Football Player of the Year, didn't expect it because recruiting didn't really pick up for him until after his junior season. He had a good season in 2015 with 1,065 receiving yards and 13 TDs before his stock took off in the offseason, similar to that of former teammate Cheyton Pine, who just completed his freshman season at Pittsburgh.
Iowa State took interest in Grimsley after seeing him on film catching passes from Pine, who played quarterback and linebacker at Lafayette and earned last year's top Gazette honor.
From that point on, Grimsley felt he would have a chance to play on the FBS level.
"I just had to play hard and earn my scholarship," Grimsley said. "I didn't really think I was going to go to college to play football because nobody really talked to me."
A number of schools finally started talking to Grimsley, who chose the Hokies over Maryland.
In 2016, Grimsley totaled 949 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. The slender 6-foot-1 wideout caught no one by surprise this season.
"The only thing you can do is have someone make sure he doesn't get the ball in his hands," Lafayette coach Andy Linn said. "And that's hard to do because if you're going to punt, you have to punt away from him or out of bounds. If you're going to kick, you have to kick away from him. And then on offense, if you're going to double cover him, we're still going to run him on the ball. He's kind of hard to game-plan against."
Linn said Grimsley's ability to run in 2016 was one of the biggest differences from his junior campaign. Grimsley was more versatile and played every role asked of him without complaining.
Defensively as a senior, Grimsley was always assigned to the opponent's top receiving threat.
Grimsley returned six kicks for touchdowns and was downright electric on a consistent basis, often drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd. Against New Kent, he hurdled a defender on his way to a kickoff return for touchdown, just a taste of the dynamic athleticism he displayed all season. There were one-handed catches and spins and cut-backs at every turn on his way to collecting all-state honors on offense, defense and special teams.
Just this week, Grimsley was selected to the USA Today All-State second team at receiver.
Asked before the season opener what kind of advice he gives first-year starting quarterback Cesar Ward on passing to him, Grimsley said, "Just throw it up and don't think about it."
"He has fun playing," Linn said. "Even the last day of practice before our state semifinal game, he was out there like a little kid on the playground having fun. That's the way he practices."
Grimsley said, "I feel like if you're not having fun, why keep doing it?"
Linn believes Grimsley could have played in college on either side of the ball, but Grimsley always wanted to be a receiver.
He is a few months closer now to suiting up in Blacksburg.
"Like I've told him, the only thing that is going to stop him is him," Linn said. "If he continues to work like he's been working and wants it more than the next guy, he's going to do great things at Virginia Tech too."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.