Quarterback Will Grier is looking to bring West Virginia to new heights, but his football journey is anything but ordinary.
The 22nd ranked Mountaineers walked off FedEx field with a 0-1 record after a nail-biting loss to Virginia Tech. However, the team can safely say they have the quarterback to lead them in the Big 12.
Will Grier, a fourth-year junior, turned in an inspiring performance against one of the nation’s best defenses. He threw for 371 yards, three touchdowns, one interception, and added 52 yards on the ground. Even Head coach Dana Holgorsen had high praise for his experienced gunslinger.
“Everything we thought he was, he is. He does a great job of … working the pocket and keeping things alive and knowing when to tuck it and knowing when to throw it.”
Despite the loss, things are looking up for West Virginia, but more importantly, things are looking up for Grier after a whirlwind start to his college career.
Start at Florida
Grier was one of the best quarterbacks in the history of North Carolina while he attended Davidson Day School. Over the course of his career, he threw for over 14,500 yards, 195 touchdowns, and rushed for over 2,900 yards and 31 touchdowns. ESPN even had him ranked as the 44th best player in the class of 2014 and third best dual-threat quarterback. With numerous offers from major Division I schools, Grier chose to play at the University of Florida.
Incumbent Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris (another c/o 2014 recruit) were tabbed as the quarterbacks to beat and Grier was slapped with the redshirt label. In 2015, the Gators would soon realize why Grier was so highly sought after out of high school.
Under first-year head coach Jim McElwain, spring practice was focused on finding a new starting quarterback. Due to Harris being away with a family problem, Grier put himself ahead, but not by enough to be named the only starter. In the season opener Harris and Grier split snaps in a win against New Mexico State.
McElwain would then name Grier as the starter for week two against ECU. From there on out, the Gators would do nothing but win. As a starter, Grier went 5-0 including a 38-10 win over third-ranked Ole Miss. Everything was looking up for the Gators and they were ranked eighth while starting 6-0. However, bad news for Grier came to light almost immediately after the Missouri game.
On October 13th, 2015, ESPN reported that Grier had tested for a banned substance and would be suspended for a year, eligible to come back week seven of the 2016 season. The details of the suspension did not immediately come to light but in 2016, Grier, in his own words, spoke with Bleacher Report to explain his year away. Along with his roommate, kicker Austin Hardin, the two took a supplement called Ligandrol.
He said it was a new thing that helped your muscles take in more protein and helped them recover faster. So we went home, and the first thing we did was look on the internet. We’re not stupid; we wanted to look it up and make sure it was all clear. I looked at every NCAA site, and many other sites, to see if it was healthy for you. I wasn’t going to put anything in my body that wasn’t legal and wasn’t healthy.
I checked each ingredient on the bottle to see if it was on the NCAA banned list. I did my research and was confident in it. What I didn’t do is ask the trainers at Florida if it was cleared. I still don’t know why I didn’t. It’s no one’s fault but mine.
While Ligandrol wasn’t specifically listed on the banned list, the NCAA states that their list is not a complete list of all banned substances and athletes should check with their coaches before taking any supplements. Despite his best efforts, his appeal was denied, but that decision wouldn’t come to matter in the coming months.
Grier took some time off away from the team, and whether that was his decision or not is still unclear. What is clear, however, is that when he did return to the university in November, Grier felt he didn’t have a place on the team and ultimately chose to transfer. News broke that the reason for his transfer was that McElwain wouldn’t guarantee a starting spot for Grier once he returned, a claim he denies.
I’ve read in various media stories that my dad and I had demanded guarantees of playing time or that we didn’t want to play at Florida. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was the exact opposite. We went in there and specifically said we weren’t looking for guarantees.
I said, the exact quote, “I just want to know what your plans are for the future. Are you going to bring in more guys? Am I a guy you don’t see playing here in the future?”
In another meeting with McElwain a few weeks later, the two essentially agreed it would be in Grier’s best interest to start fresh at a new school, of course, not in the SEC. Just like that, a promising start at Florida was over. In only six games, Grier threw for 1,202 yards, 10 touchdowns against only three interceptions, and rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Despite a 6-0 start with Grier under center, the Gators finished the season with a 10-4 record, including a 41-7 loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
Transferring to West Virginia and a Fresh Start
A few months after announcing his plans to transfer, Grier was highly sought after by a number of schools, including Ohio State and Oregon, but West Virginia put their confidence in Grier.
When I went into Dana’s office, he said to me, “Don’t worry about anything. We’re going to stick with you no matter what, even if you can’t play the first six games of 2017. We want you.” I committed to WVU that moment. It felt really good to find a coach who wanted me for me. It was exciting.
There was a small issue that presented itself. According to NCAA rules, a player must sit out a year when transferring from one FBS to another. Grier feared his suspension and transfer ineligibility term would be served consecutively not concurrently.
After a sitting out the entire 2016 season, Grier, and all Mountaineer fans, received great news. West Virginia had applied for a waiver to make Grier eligible for week 1 of the 2017 season and received it. September 4th would mark this first time since October 10th, 2015 that Grier would step foot on the football field.
Even in an opening week loss, Grier’s first career loss, by the way, he still impressed everyone and has continued to do so. The Mountaineers are 3-1 and Grier is the biggest reason why. He’s thrown for 1,374 yards (sixth most), 13 touchdowns (fourth most), only three interceptions, 131 rushing yards, and two rushing touchdowns.
The season is still a long way from being over and Grier’s future is unknown, but right now he’s just enjoying the moment and enjoying the new start he has in Morgantown.
Edited by Brian Kang.
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