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From 'hell and back' to team leader, Ohio State's Curtis Grant's seen it all in his career
By James Vogel
 

NEW ORLEANS — Curtis Grant was in a dark place. In fact, it probably was as dark a place as you could get in life.

It was mid-October of last year and the Ohio State senior linebacker and team captain attended the funeral of his father in Richmond, Va., ripped away from his teammates during a bye week to say goodbye to the man who first got him into the game he so dearly loves today.

“To be honest, I tell everybody I’ve been through hell and back,” Grant said Monday, three days before he and the No. 4 Buckeyes take on top-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl as part of the inaugural College Football Playoff. “Seen the good, seen the bad, started off doing good, get in a bad place and got to a place where I didn’t even want to play football anymore.”

Grant, a father himself to a son who he’s vied all across social media to take care like his dad did him, turned to what anyone could in a difficult situation like that. He looked to those closest to him — his brothers on the football team, his coaches and his family.

Grant was lost, but his teammates and coaches found him. They convinced him to stay part of something they knew was bigger than them — a chance to constantly improve both as people and football players.

“Curtis Grant, to see where he was 11, 10 1/2 months ago, to where he is right now? There’s nothing else that can give me greater joy, like your own son, you’re own kid having success,” defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said. “To see the ups and the downs and the things that he’s battled through and where he was, like I said 11 months ago going into last year’s bowl game, walking out of last year’s bowl game, not sure where he was going to be.”

Much like Fickell, Grant’s been the subject of his fair share of criticism while at Ohio State.

Flying in as a five-star recruit and middle linebacker, Grant was a guy fans expected would follow in the same path as Buckeye greats A.J. Hawk, Andy Katzenmoyer or James Laurinaitis and win national awards and earn All-American honors. That hasn’t been the case, but he’s grown into an important cog of Ohio State’s complete restructure on the defensive side of the ball since losing back-to-back games last year to Michigan State and Clemson.

“When we talk about Curtis Grant, I definitely would say he’s the heart and soul of the linebacker room,” junior Joshua Perry said. “He’s been a great leader and what he’s been able to do this year, his career probably didn’t go the way he wanted it to go, a lot of us have high expectations of him, but just to see the turnaround that he has had and the adversity that he’s faced and the way he’s responded to it has been amazing.”

Player profiles relevant to story:
14 - Grant, Curtis | 37 - Perry, Joshua | Coach - Fickell, Luke
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