Grady learns lesson, leads by example

BY IAN ROBINSON
Daily Sports Editor
Published September 25, 2008

Running out of the Michigan Stadium tunnel and touching the banner before a home game is exhilarating for anybody who has the opportunity.

"You can't really compare it to anything," redshirt junior running back Kevin Grady said.

But at one point this summer, it seemed doubtful that Grady would get the chance to experience that thrill again.

On July 2, near his hometown of Grand Rapids, he was cited for driving under the influence with a blood alcohol level of 0.281, more than three times the legal limit. First-year Michigan coach Rich Rodgriguez suspended Grady from the team.

In August, Grady pled guilty to a misdemeanor drunken-driving charge, which carries a fine of $3,920, one year of probation and the option of community service or jail time.

But even after the legal situation had been resolved, Grady's status with the team remained uncertain. At one point, it wasn't clear whether Grady would be back on the team. But he did what Rodriguez asked of him, and earned his spot back.

Rodriguez hasn't discussed exactly what Grady did to get back on the team, saying the matter would be handled internally. Grady said it involved "extra work, running and mental things" but wouldn't elaborate on specifics.

Grady, who missed all of last season with an ACL injury, was suspended for the opener, but played against Miami (Ohio) the next week.

"I think he knows he made a mistake; he paid the price for it," Rodriguez said.

Through his reinstatement, Rodriguez saw a mentality that makes Grady a team leader.

"He's willing to do whatever it takes for us to have success," Rodriguez said. "He's working hard to help us any way he can."

Since returning from his suspension, Grady has provided a power option to the speed and elusiveness of Michigan's other running backs. On short-yardage situations, he can run between the tackles for those necessary yards.

Against Notre Dame, Grady displayed the strength that made him a top recruit coming out of East Grand Rapids High School. On second and goal from the Notre Dame six-yard line, Grady took the ball inside off a triple-option and carried a linebacker with him into the end zone.

The effort he shows on plays like that is the same effort he brings to practice. His dedication to rejoining has inspired his teammates.

"Kevin Grady is probably one of the hardest working members of the team," junior wide receiver Greg Mathews said. "He did everything he could and just had a great attitude the whole way through the situation. So if he can go through that, when you’re having a bad day, you can go through anything."

Grady has been a mentor for Michigan's freshman running backs, Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw. With two seasons of Big Ten football experience, Grady can offer some insights to his young teammates. This weekend, Grady's experience will be useful as Michigan (1-2) hosts No. 9 Wisconsin (3-0) and its physical brand of football at the Big House at 3:30 tomorrow.

"You're an older guy, you got to take care of your brothers," Grady said. "So that's how I look at it, especially with the guys in the running back room."

As an upperclassman, Grady wants to share some lessons with his teammates so they don't make the same mistakes. Though he didn't plan on doing what he did this summer, Grady said he has picked up some valuable lessons he can carry with him and pass onto other teammates.

In fact, when asked about what his situation this summer taught him, Grady said, four times in one answer, he has learned to be accountable for his actions and take responsibility.

"Not saying that I wanted it to happen, but I think it was for my own good that it happened now than later," Grady said.

But as he learned in working his way back onto the team, Grady says it will be the actions and how he carries himself that will judge whether he learned his lesson.