ANNAPOLIS, OCT. 21 -- Last year, Navy quarterbacks coach Greg Seamon went on a recruiting mission to Virginia Beach. He wanted Green Run High School quarterback Alton Grizzard.
Seamon was straightforward with the young man, telling him Navy wanted him as a quarterback, but that he probably wouldn't play much as a plebe and there were no guarantees about anything after that. That was a good idea.
And since Navy was moving to the wishbone, Seamon decided to show Grizzard some diagrams, explaining all the things Midshipmen quarterbacks would be doing in the new offense. That wasn't such a good idea.
"He was showing me all the things I'd have to read," recalled Grizzard, who had played in a Wing-T and had made his first start at quarterback as a senior. "I said to myself, 'There's no way I can do that.' "
Turns out that Grizzard was wrong -- and so was Seamon.
The 1986 Virginia Class AAA player of the year has become the 1987 Navy surprise of the year. He emerged from preseason practice as the No. 2 quarterback. Then when the No. 1 man, John Nobers, faltered in a pair of season-opening losses, Grizzard was on the move. He mopped up in a 45-14 loss to North Carolina; alternated with Nobers the next week at Virginia Tech and started the following week against Air Force.
Last week at Penn, however, Grizzard really took charge. He rushed for 225 yards -- the best single-game rushing total by a Navy quarterback ever and the eighth-best by any Navy player -- and three touchdowns as the Midshipmen ended a 12-game losing streak by defeating Penn, 38-28.
Now as the Midshipmen (1-5) prepare for games in the next three weeks against Pittsburgh (Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, noon), No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 9 Syracuse, Grizzard is unequivocably their man.
"I don't know if it's a surprise or not," Navy Coach Elliot Uzelac said today at his weekly news conference. "We knew that he was a good athlete. It was, 'How soon could he grasp and learn the concepts of the wishbone?' "
But, said Uzelac, Grizzard need not worry about comparisons to (Oklahoma quarterback) Jamelle Holieway just yet.
"I told Grizzard the truth," Uzelac said. "I said, 'Son, you did a nice job. You've got a long way to go. You've got a lot to learn.' He knows and I know he's not an accomplished quarterback."
Asked what it feels like, knowing that no matter what he does this season, he will have to battle Gary McIntosh, a transfer from Maryland , for the starting job next season, Grizzard said, "Hey, the way I look at it, there's no guarantee about next week."
When you are 5-foot-11, 170-pounds, there are no guarantees about anything..
"Most schools that recruited me told me that they might try me as a receiver or punter or maybe defensive back," said Grizzard, who played all of those positions in high school . "Navy said they wanted me to play quarterback."
"He was one of those best-athlete-in-the-school kind of guys," Seamon said of Grizzard, who also had a 3.4 grade-point average, was a member of the National Honor Society and was voted the best scholar-athlete in the Norfolk area -- an award previously won by Penn State running back D.J. Dozier and North Carolina basketball forward J.R. Reid. "Right now, he's just skin and bones. He gets the . . . beaten out of him in games and sometimes can't practice until Tuesday or Wednesday, but he's always ready to play on Saturday.
"He's an amazing competitor and an amazing person in his ability to handle pressures. I mean for a freshman to play quarterback at the Division I level at a service academy and do it well is extraordinary . . . At this time last year, he was getting ready for homecoming at Green River. Now he's getting ready for Pitt, Notre Dame and Syracuse -- that tells you something, doesn't it?"