Senior linebacker Antonio Grier has steadily worked his way up the depth chart since arriving to USF in 2018, going from mostly a special teamer as a freshman to becoming one of the AAC’s top linebackers heading into his senior season.
As a Second Team All-AAC selection last season, Grier had a career year. In just eight games he was able to post 59 tackles — good for tenth best in the AAC — as well as three sacks.
His upcoming season could be even better. Although he had to toughen through an injury, it changed his mentality over the offseason.
“In the spring I was injured, but I was making sure I was out there every practice,” Grier said. “I was running behind the guys, sprinting to the ball. I was getting every coaching point. It was a mental thing, I learned how to become a teammate during the spring and I needed that. I needed to learn how to become a better teammate.
“Now that I’m back for the fall, I feel like I’ve got all the tools that I need. I became a better teammate, mentally [and] physically restored and rebuilt myself and became a better person all around. I’m a strong believer [that] everything happens for a reason. So, I feel like that was the reason [for my injury], for me to become a better teammate. When I’m not in, we cheer our guys on that’s on the field, because it only takes one play.”
Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer has witnessed Grier’s performance firsthand, and said he’s excited to see what the senior linebacker can do this season.
“I’ve got high aspirations for him,” Spencer said. “[I want him to] make plays and be active. The biggest thing with Antonio, and I don’t think he’d mind me saying this, is just being consistent week in and week out, and he has been in this camp.
“Coach [Jeff Scott] gave him one of his post-game chips the other day after practice, saying that was the most consistent he’s ever been since we’ve been here … [I have confidence he’s going to] have a good season for us.”
Spencer isn’t the only one who thinks Grier could be primed for a big year, as he was named to the Reese’s Senior Bowl Watchlist, a list of players to keep an eye on who may receive an invite to the event. The Senior Bowl is an all-star game which allows for the best players in college football to go up against one another after the end of the season.
But his work off the field is just as, if not more, important to him.
“Since I was a kid, [my dreams were] to play in the NFL,” Grier said. “But sometimes it’s bigger than just playing football. My biggest thing that I want to do before I leave this university is leave a legacy.”
Grier is deeply involved with the USF community as the president of both Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and the Black Student Athlete Council as well as the diversity liaison of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
Through his experiences at USF over the past years, Grier, a Georgia native and criminology major, has grown to love not only USF’s campus but also the surrounding Tampa area.
“I’m actually planning on staying in Tampa or in Florida after [I graduate to] make this my new home,” Grier said. “I love Tampa, I love this university, I give my heart to it every day, every time I wake up.
“I would love to go into the NFL [and] pursue my dreams, but I want to be a mentor and maybe come back and coach here or work in the marketing department.”
At the end of the day, Grier’s football experience as well as all of his off-field commitments has made him into the man he is today.
“I didn’t just come here to play football,” Grier said. “I came here to leave my legacy and to leave my mark on this university.”