On September 24th, 2016 the greatest fear for Rutgers football fans came true. Janarion Grant, whose offensive impact was far greater than his official position of wide receiver, went down after another thrilling play, this time a 76 yard scamper off a screen pass that brought him just short of the goal line early in the second half against Iowa. This time Grant didn't bounce right up. Soon after he was helped off the field and with it went the Rutgers offense. The Scarlet Knights would only score multiple touchdowns in three of their last eight games, were shutout four times, and finished with pretty much the worst offensive production in all of FBS football.
For Rutgers fans, the process with Grant has been a multiple stage recovery process. First, it was accepting that Grant was out for the season. Then there was the realization that Grant's career in a Rutgers uniform was likely over, as he was eligible to enter the NFL Draft. At that point, as fans all you could hope for was that Grant would make a full recovery and find an opportunity in the NFL. Heck, I even wrote a tribute to him and his Rutgers career here.
As the winter came, there were rumblings that Grant was leaning towards coming back for his last season of eligibility, which was confirmed back in January. Elation ensued! The next question was whether Grant was on schedule in his recovery and would he be fully healed and healthy for the start of the 2017 season? It was great to see him participating in Spring practice, although in a limited capacity. On Monday in speaking with beat reporters at Big Ten Media Day, head coach Chris Ash gave the best news of the summer for Rutgers fans!
It's actually happening, my friends. We are fortunate enough to have one more season of watching Janarion Grant on a football field wearing the block R on his helmet. Cherish it! I remember feeling so depressed thinking that would never happen again, and now we know he is back to full health, hoping to produce the best season of his already memorable Rutgers career. While it might take some time for Grant to return to form, him being healthy gives hope that it will happen soon enough.
Grant has the opportunity to break the NCAA record for most career special teams touchdowns with just one more return for a score. He also has a chance to break the Rutgers all-time record for most all-purpose yards, held by Terrell Willis. After being named to the preseason watch lists for the Maxwell and Hornung Award watch lists, Grant has a chance to leave his mark on the national college football scene as well.
Most importantly this season, Grant should have much more help around him on offense. With grad transfers Kyle Bolin, Gus Edwards, and Damon Mitchell, along with talented freshman Bo Melton added to an offense that has Robert Martin, Josh Hicks, and Jawuan Harris returning, Grant will be much harder for opposing defenses to focus on. It will be very exciting to see how new offensive coordinator Jerry Kill utilizes the electric Grant.
There are plenty of question marks surrounding the Rutgers football team headed into the 2017 season. At least now, Grant's health is no longer one of them. Ash has made a lot of improvements to the coaching staff and roster this offseason. However, watching #1 running up and down the field this season is as good a reason to be excited for the second chapter of the Ash Era as any. The true impact of Grant with the fan base is that he injects real hope that anything is possible with him on the field.
39 days until the season opener at home against Washington. Watch this hype video produced by our own RutgersNation86 to hold you over until then.