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Falcons' Brent Grimes comes from Shippensburg to stardom

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Falcons' Brent Grimes comes from Shippensburg to stardom

About 45 miles south of Harrisburg, Pa., sits Shippensburg, a tiny town off Interstate 81 that's probably known more for its annual Corn Festival than for football.

Coach Rocky Rees has been at Shippensburg University for 21 years, but he likely has coached more doctors and lawyers than professional football players. Guys go there to play for the love of the game, in a stadium that doesn't seat as many fans as several high school stadiums in Georgia.

It's an unlikely conduit for a player hoping to make an impact in the NFL, but Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes is pleased with the route he took to get to where he is.

"Everybody went their way; my way just happened to be coming through a smaller school," said Grimes, who played at Shippensburg from 2002-05 and holds the school record for career interceptions with 27. "I just do what I do. I look at it like, I just had to get my opportunity another way."

His unorthodox path led him through Shippensburg, then the NFL free-agent pool, before landing in Amsterdam with the NFL Europa, where his team won the championship in 2007.

He returned to Atlanta and ended up on the Falcons' practice squad for much of 2007 and 2008. Other cornerbacks came and went through the Falcons' roster, and where Grimes fit into the Falcons' future was uncertain.

But he got his chance in 2009, leading the team with six interceptions and proving for the first time in a complete season that he could not only survive but excel in the league.

Today, size and Shippensburg don't matter. Grimes is the unquestioned starter and a mainstay on the corner for the Falcons. He said his hard work has paid off.

"Film study, and [secondary coach] Tim [Lewis] helps me out a lot," Grimes said. "Not knocking the other coaches I've had. It's all a progression. ... That's the big thing. Coach helps you out a lot. I work with him, and he tells me certain things to do, certain things to look for. And confidence; it's just going out there and playing."

That's what he has done since high school. The kid who some said would never be able to be an effective NFL corner is now a 27-year-old proven commodity at the position.

In high school and college, some players seem destined for the pros. They run like no one can slow them, and they're big enough to lay a mean hit to anyone in their way.

That wasn't Grimes. He was a good player at Northeast High School in Philadelphia, but when he arrived on a college campus, the NFL seemed a long way away.

"When I went to Shippensburg, I was thinking I'm just going to play college football, do what I do," Grimes said. "I always had a dream of playing in the NFL, but when I got there ... coach Mac [secondary coach Mark Maciejewski] told me, ‘If you do right here, you really have the talent and opportunity to get a chance in the NFL.' That was probably my freshman year. I stuck with it, and it worked out for me."

Not only did he get to the NFL, but he's recognized as one of the game's best cornerbacks.

An ESPN article last week discussed how Grimes is surrendering an average of only 4.6 yards per pass attempt. To put that into perspective, that's just one yard more per attempt than Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis had in 2009, when he was widely considered to have had one of the more dominant seasons for any cornerback in recent memory.

Plenty of tests remain on the Falcons' schedule for Grimes and the secondary, but coach Mike Smith said he can see how far Grimes has come.

"I think really it’s the experience of spending three years in our program and in our system," Smith said. "Brent has matured as a football player since we’ve gotten here. We’ve always known that he may be the most athletic player on our team, but he really has a very good understanding of what we’re trying to do coverage-wise. I think he understands our disguise packages, and when you put all of that together you’re seeing a guy that’s playing very effectively for us."

He has certainly come a long way from being the fresh-faced 19-year-old who showed up in a tiny Pennsylvania town eight years ago.

Rees is retiring this year, and an era will end in Shippensburg. But it's really just beginning for Grimes. And where he came from doesn't matter nearly as much as where he's going.

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Grimes is the unquestioned starter and a mainstay on the corner for the Falcons

thats all i needed to hear right there, now if i hear one more bench grimes thread :angry: .... :lol: this kid is a beast tho.... i actually hope ppl start throwing to his side more to see if he has gotten better since last year... but then again.... nvm i hope not :P

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Heh, I can remember the days when I was negged for saying Grimes was good. Of course, the bandwagon at that time was to bench him. I had faith in him and he hasn't disappointed.

It's funny how I was bashed for my support of Grimes until an article praising him makes it to the AJC. Then it's okay to be a fan of him.

I am glad to see that he's finally being recognized for his talent, though. Great article and thanks for posting.

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When Grimes first came in he had some issues. Mainly he wasn't physical enough. His two biggest problems were getting out muscled by bigger WRs and not being able to come up and make a tackle. He was benched four times for those reasons.

Last year he played the bigger WRs much better but still couldn't tackle. At least not on the left side. This year he started out slow in the tackling department but in the last two games he has been tackling his as off.

If he can stay consistent he may end up being as good as Peyton and Sportsfreak said he is.

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His first year, he was getting his hands on the ball several times a game. I knew it was only a matter of time before he started coming down with the ball. He did have a rough period where he got abused, and I have to admit, I was wavering, but then he came back stronger than ever. Now opposing QBs know better than to pick on him. Good for him.

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