Rookie safety Richie Grant: ‘This is your whole life now. There is no school now’

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons rookie safety Richie Grant wears two wristbands on his right wrist.

The first is black with gold lettering that reads “compete at everything” and the other is gold with black lettering that says “above the line.” He earned them after games and practices early in his career at UCF.

“Losing is a part of life, but damn I hate losing,” Grant said Monday as he described the first wristband. “Pingpong, pool, compete at everything. You just keep that mentality when you come out here, compete at everything and it just carries over.”

As a sophomore in 2018, Grant started all 13 games at safety for the undefeated Golden Knights. He led the team in tackles (109) and interceptions (6). From that season forward, Grant accepted the role of leader both on and off the field.

“I’ve always been a guy that has bitten off more than I can chew, not in a negative way, but to keep challenging myself,” Grant said. “I learned at an early age that you can’t grow unless you’re put in uncomfortable spots. I’ve always been that type of guy.”

Now in his first NFL training camp, Grant is both leaning on the guidance of veterans like Duron Harmon and Erik Harris and making the most of his reps, working in different spots across the field.

Grant’s athleticism has helped him keep up with the likes of receivers Christian Blake and Chris Rowland. His ball-watching ability has developed so he can read Matt Ryan or AJ McCarron’s throws and make a play on the ball.

It’s here where the “above the line” wristband is showcased in the 6-foot, 210-pound safety. Once used as a tool to keep the defensive back room’s academic GPA’s in check, the saying morphed into competing and making sure his teammates’ work ethic was at the highest level it could be.

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Unlike in college where he was setting the standard and expectations, Grant is now learning from the veteran players and coaches, doing what he can to meet their demands.

“I have a lot of older vets out there and I don’t want to let them down,” Grant said. “I’m making sure everyday I’m finding something to get better at. With the game on the line, I don’t want to be the one they’re looking at like ‘c’mon rook.’ I can’t let that be me.”

So far, it really hasn’t been Grant that’s let down the defense in practice. Instead he and the rest of the defensive backs have been delivering.

On Monday, there were several good reads that led to interceptions and pass-breakups. Isaiah Oliver’s one-handed interception was certainly the most impressive, but multiple players on the defense had their opportunity to be in the spotlight for the right reasons.

“I do think the defense today did a nice job,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “They’re breaking it, getting more confidence. That’s what you want to see. You want to see that back-and-forth.”

Smith and other Falcons have taken notice of the talent and versatility of Grant. They see what he can do in multiple spots on the field. They’ve instructed him when watching film, working on different routes and in the weight room.

Grant joked that if some of the veterans told him to eat differently, he’d do so because he’s seen how good they can be.

“There are a lot of things we ask him to do that are very different,” Smith said. “I think having guys like Erik Harris and Duron (Harmon) have been valuable for Richie. They’ve been through a lot and play pretty similar roles.”

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Looking to get better each day, Grant understands the value that watching film, even practice film, can bring to his overall game.

“The eye in the sky don’t lie,” Grant said. “Whatever that damn film says, that’s what it is. Even if you had a great day or great play, there’s always something that you could tell your teammate or yourself like.”

In the first few weeks of training camp and the previous months learning Dean Pees’ defense and working with his teammates, Grant said the game has slowed down for him. He’ll continue to look down at his wristbands, which he hasn’t ever taken off since 2018.

Grant hopes that in the last month before the regular season begins he can continue to grow as a football player and a leader.

“It is all football,” Grant said. “This is your whole life now. There is no school now. You can study as much as you want, or as little as you want if you want to get cut.”