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As NFL draft begins, Virginia Tech's Cody Grimm is ready to defy odds at the highest level

By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 23, 2010; D04

At Virginia Tech, Cody Grimm made a career out of proving people wrong. Now he hopes to make a living out of it.

Undersize and unheralded, Grimm came to Blacksburg as a walk-on and left as a first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection. And now, still undersize and a question mark at the next level, Grimm could be selected in the NFL draft over the weekend. Defying odds has been the story of his life.

"He was always great at whatever he did," his older brother, Chad, said in a recent telephone interview. "He could learn to do back flips or back handsprings, stuff that a normal person wouldn't be able to do; he could try it and do it."

Grimm, who is 5 feet 11 and 210 pounds, played linebacker and special teams for the Hokies. He fits as a strong safety and a special teams player at the NFL level because he lacks the size to play at linebacker. Strong safety is a similar position and would play to his strengths: blitzing and his instinctive ability to play in space.

Grimm said he has heard he could be selected as early as the fifth round, or not drafted at all and signed as a free agent. He understands why some will scratch their head and ask if he can actually play in the NFL.

"I don't blame people; I look at myself and wonder how I get it done," Grimm said in a telephone interview. "But I'm not worried. I think I'm plenty capable of getting it done."

With a remarkable senior season, Grimm etched himself in Virginia Tech lore, a player who will be fondly recalled in Blacksburg. Grimm led the Hokies in tackles in 2009 and tied an NCAA record with three forced fumbles in a game. (More precisely, he forced three fumbles in the opening four plays of a win over North Carolina State in November).

After graduating in December, Grimm worked out in Arizona with Brett Fisher, a renowned trainer of professional athletes, for seven months. Fisher likened Grimm's work ethic and attentiveness to that of Darrelle Revis, a cornerback for the New York Jets.

"The maturity level of him is what struck me the most," Fisher said of Grimm. "In drills or whatever, you could see him just hanging on every word of our coaches on what to do. Some guys kind of tune you out. He was asking questions about the criticism and making sure he understood it. He really wanted to get it."

Grimm joined a handful of other prospective draftees in Arizona who trained for about eight hours a day. Some of the work included strength exercises, but the players also watched film of themselves running, studying how to reduce their times in the 40-yard dash.

Grimm said that the most intense part of the daily workouts was when he was made to manipulate heavy ropes to strengthen his shoulders and legs. He kept a trash can by his side in case he needed to vomit.

"Having a gym full of Cody Grimms is a dream," Fisher said. "He just gives a thousand percent every day."

Grimm said he was enjoying this time. Many of his other friends have entered the workforce, but Grimm said he felt as if he were still living in an alternate reality. Since returning to his parents' home in Fairfax from his stay in Arizona, he has worked out twice a day. In between workouts, he spends his time fishing. Sometimes he goes with a friend, sometimes alone.

Grimm's two brothers have to learn through their mother, Karen, that NFL teams have expressed interest in their middle sibling. Grimm never mentions it. In fact, he said, it felt as if the draft snuck up on him, illustrating his cucumber-cool nature.

"For real, I haven't thought about it too much," Grimm said of the draft. "I feel like I should be getting nervous. I don't think about it too often."

Grimm said he spoke with several NFL teams at Virginia Tech's pro day in March. Also, he said he went to San Diego to meet with members of the Chargers organization. He broke down film with coaches, who quizzed him on schemes.

One team Grimm has not heard from is the Arizona Cardinals, but that does not concern him. His father, Russ, a Hall of Fame lineman with the Washington Redskins, is the Cardinals' assistant head coach. His older brother, Chad, is the offensive quality control coach. Any of Arizona's questions about the plucky Virginia Tech linebacker run through them.

"Between me and my dad both being out here, they know," said Chad Grimm, who played for the Hokies from 2003 to 2006.

Whether he ends up in Arizona or elsewhere, Cody Grimm said he was just concerned with being drafted and then starting his NFL career, a notion that would have seemed improbable a few years ago.

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