You will sense a few common themes amongst most of the players who last a long time in professional sports. One of those is the fact they all never lose sight of the wisdom they learned from veterans at the time they broke into their respective leagues.
Lions defensive back Aaron Grymes is a prime example. On the day he put pen to paper on a two-year contract that keeps him in orange and black through 2021, the former Idaho Vandals star looked back at those who helped him find his way at 2013 training camp in Edmonton.
“J.C. Sherritt is the first one that comes to mind,” recalled Grymes from his off-season home in Idaho.
“Calvin McCarty and Ryan King are also guys that stick out to me in terms of mentors. I just talked to J.C. yesterday. He’s the guy I get a lot of my professionalism from. I tell him all the time. J.C. and those other guys not only helped me in terms of football but also the off-field stuff and how to conduct yourself. I had a great group of guys help me get to where I am today.”
Grymes was having a stellar first season with the Lions until he suffered a torn ACL in a loss to Edmonton on October 10th. Lions fans may recall quarterback Mike Reilly also had his campaign come to an abrupt that night when he suffered a broken wrist just minutes into the game that ultimately ended the club’s playoff aspirations.
When it came to starting his rehab process, it was Sherritt who helped Grymes get up from off the mat.
“He hit me up the next day and I remember his exact words in the text. He said ‘you’ve had your 24 hours. It’s time to get back on your road to recovery.’ Just seeing that from him and having him in my corner was all I needed to get going,” explained Grymes.
And all signs point toward him being ready for day one of training camp. Now that his contract status is no longer in question, Grymes will officially look forward to getting back on the field and helping the team get back to the promised land.
“I’m ready to win again,” said the 2015 Grey Cup champion.
“I came to the Lions last year because I believe we’re building something special and I never wanted to leave after one year. I’m just grateful to have the trust of the organization and for them to allow me to continue playing the game I love.”
Along with his connection to GM Ed Hervey, Grymes has maintained his lifelong friendship with fellow defensive back T.J. Lee who signed his own contract extension on Tuesday. The duo played together at West Seattle High School over a decade ago where Grymes was also a star in track and field, finishing fifth overall in the 100-meters in the Washington State Championships.
Now the duo looks to sip from the Grey Cup together. No matter what happens, their bond will remain tight. Grymes and his family attended the baby gender reveal for T.J. and his fiancee Britney earlier this month: the couple will welcome a boy just before the start of the regular season.
“We talk about it all the time, just how crazy it is after all these years that we’re on the same defence together,” said Grymes.
“It’s not just about football with us but hopefully we can be together for the rest of our careers.”
Like Lee explained to us earlier this week, fatherhood is also a big deal for Grymes. His wife Hannah and daughters Zoey, 6, and Flora ,1, have been there every step of the way in his quest to get healthy. For papa Grymes, it also puts a lot of things in life into perspective.
“It definitely does,” he said.
“I just had a lunch day with my older daughter at her school. It was just awesome seeing a smile on her face and her showing me off to her friends. One of them said she asked her mom if she can come to watch me play next year. That’s special because I remember being a kid myself and looking up to athletes. I’m proud I have two daughters that go to sleep and wake up in the same house as me that I get to be a role model for. I absolutely love it.”
Winning games will no doubt bring more young admirers into the fold. He got a taste of Grey Cup champagne earlier in his career but now Grymes is working toward doing it with Lee, Reilly and his other teammates who are focused on the common goal. Given how it went in 2019, they are all motivated to be contenders in 2020 and beyond.
“It’s hard to get to where you want to go if you don’t understand where you’ve been,” said Grymes.
“I definitely don’t want to go through what we did last year. How do we learn from it? I want to strengthen my position as a leader and help turn this thing around. Looking at last year there were even some things we did right that we can build on. It’s a new year.”
Sherritt would no doubt be proud of that winner’s mentality.