Ten Things You Should Know About . . .
ATHENS – Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham recently agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Bulldogs that pays him $825,000 a year and keeps him among the highest-paid assistant coaches in the country.
The buyout clause in his contract – $60,000 the first year, $40,000 the second and $20,000 in the third – is waived if Grantham leaves for a head coaching or NFL coordinator’s job. While he insists he is in no hurry to do so, Grantham is not shy about sharing that his ultimate goal is to become a head coach.
Grantham sat down for an interview this past week. Here are 10 things you should know about him:
First, he is clear on how his ambitions mesh with his current job.
“First of all, I like the job I have,” said Grantham, the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator since 2010. “I enjoy being the defensive coordinator at Georgia. I enjoy coordinating and I enjoy football in general. But I think any time you’re in a profession, you’re always looking to take on the next challenge. What’s the next challenge? Being a head coach. … It’s something I would like to do in time, but I’m not looking to do it right now.”
Impressive coaching pedigree
Grantham is a Virginia Tech graduate and former Hokie offensive lineman whose first job was working for coach Frank Beamer as a graduate assistant. He also coached defensive line and served as assistant head coach for Nick Saban at Michigan State and coached in the NFL for 11 years under Jim Mora, Dom Capers, Romeo Crennel and Wade Phillips. So who had the greatest influence on him?
“I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of quality coaches and I’d say I’ve got a little bit of all of them in me,” he said. “But I think Frank Beamer and Nick Saban probably had the greatest influence on me because I played for Coach Beamer and that was my first full-time job. So I got to see how he worked and how he was organized. With Nick, I’d say he’s been the greatest influence on me from a defensive perspective. … It was just the volume of defense that I learned. There’s a reason Nick is successful and is really good at what he does.”
UGA a perfect fit
Grantham said he always intended to return to the college game and actually had a number of opportunities over the years. But he said was he was looking for the right situation and couldn’t find it until he met Mark Richt.
“The thing that excited me about coming [to Georgia] is I felt like I could really enhance the program,” Grantham said. “If you go back and look, they’ve been really good on defense here and they’ve had some really good players drafted. I know the type of players they have within a five-hour radius of this school. So the components were there. To me, that was something that was intriguing and excited me about taking this job. And obviously working with Mark was a big part of it. There’s a reason he’s had the stability he’s had, too, the type of person he is, his beliefs. Those things played a part in it.”
Unlike a lot of coordinators, Grantham loves recruiting. He said he enjoys the process of identifying young talent, evaluating them and getting to know them on a personal level.
“When I saw Nick go into a home, I saw how he’d get the players’ attention because he had been in the NFL and I knew I wanted to get that on my resume,” Grantham said. “I didn’t realize I’d stay 11 years necessarily, but I knew I wanted to coach there and see what it was like. And I did believe that it could help in the college game because kids want to play pro football. Well, if you’ve been there, you’ve experienced it and you know what they’re looking for and you run that type of system, then that eases the transition for everybody.”
At Virginia Tech, Grantham was a good player but not great. He actually was recruited by Vince Dooley’s brother, Bill Dooley, who resigned after Grantham’s sophomore season.
“I was the overachieving guy,” Grantham said. “I was an offensive lineman and I played all positions on the line — center, guard and tackle. I was voted captain my senior year and played on the first team to win a bowl game. We won the Peach Bowl my senior year. That was the first bowl win in the history of Virginia Tech.”
Found love in Blacksburg
It was at Virginia Tech that Grantham met his wife, Paige. They dated for five years before getting married after he moved on to Michigan State.
“I was a GA when I met her, which was a good thing because she was introduced to what it was like to be with a coach from the get-go,” Grantham said. “She knew what she was getting into so there was no excuse. Paige is really the strength of the whole thing. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do because our jobs require the investment of a lot of time.”
Football and family
Grantham is a certified workaholic and rarely goes a day without analyzing some football video. But if he’s not up to his neck X’s and O’s, he’s probably at one of Oconee County’s ballparks. Son Corbin, 11, “loves anything with a ball” and is playing one sport or another every season. Daughter Olivia, 8, also plays softball and enjoys equestrian. So and Paige carry their Georgia “G” fold-out chairs everywhere they go so they can sit back and watch their kids.
“I enjoy watching them play more than anything,” Grantham said. “It’s fun. Both of them like to fish, too, which is something I like to do. They like to fish because I like to fish.”
Friday night lights
Grantham didn’t grow up on a farm but calls himself “a country boy,” same as many young men raised in South Georgia. And that goes double when it comes to football. Grantham cut his football teeth at Pulaski County High, where he played for legendary coach Joel Hicks, a hard-nosed disciplinarian. He calls Hicks and his offensive line coach there, Randy Flinchum, two of the most influential men in his life.
“It was really fun playing there,” Grantham said. ”Football was important in the town. Everybody was at the game on Friday night. You might have 6,000 or 7,000 people there, which is pretty good for high school football. That had a huge influence on me from a competitive standpoint.”
Grantham grew up in Pulaski, Va., about 26 miles southwest of Blacksburg, with two siblings. His brother, Tony Grantham, coaches linebackers at Navy and his sister, Angie Phillips, still lives in Virginia. His father, Gale Grantham, worked for a heavy equipment company and sold cars at different times and his mother Linda worked at a mill.
“They both worked and made sure we had everything we needed,” Grantham said. “I never felt like I went without anything.”
Grantham sounds very Saban-esque when the conversation turns to Georgia’s 2012 defense. The Bulldogs return 10 full- or part-time starters from a unit that finished fifth in the nation in total defense a year ago. But Grantham is very careful to not let the cart get in front of the horse when asked to handicap the team’s ability.
“I think we have good players,” he said. “But the way I’ve always looked at it and this is what I’ve told our guys, ‘Never forget where you come from.’ The reason people are talking about us now is basically because of the things we did last year. But this time last year, they weren’t talking about us.
“I told them, ‘The way they’re going to talk about you in the future is for what you do now.’ So what’s really important is what we do now. Once the 2012 season kicks off, this team has no wins and no losses. It’s what we do in the next 12 weeks that will determine this team’s success.”