For college football players entering the NFL Draft, the month of March means being picked, prodded, examined, interviewed and tested by potential employers. The pressure must be suffocating; one bad run, one bad interview, one bad day can change a draftee’s future, draft rank, and salary.
Marion Grice knows that all too well.
The former Arizona State running back with a nose for the end zone, 39 touchdowns in 23 games, went through the pre-draft gauntlet just one year ago. The decorated playmaker was knocked out of his last three collegiate games, including the 2013 Pac-12 championship and Holliday Bowl, due to an ankle injury.
Grice had to prove his durability to his potential suitors, and that his injury was a small blip on the radar.
“(My pre-draft process) was stressful,” Grice said. “Coming off the injury…I had to set my Pro Day back to a private Pro Day, and I felt like I did good. My intentions were to make sure I caught someone’s eye and I did that.”
The San Diego Chargers selected Grice in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
While on the practice squad in late September, he had an option, and took it…with the Arizona Cardinals. He had the ability to stay with the Chargers or join another roster, and he decided to return to the state that put him on the map.
In his rookie year with the Birds, he rushed for 42 yards and two touchdowns, including a touchdown in the Cardinals playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers.
The Sun Devil and member of the Bird Gang now returned to Tempe, hoping to provide guidance for the “little guys” he affectionately calls the Sun Devil seniors and potential draftees preparing for this year’s upcoming draft.
“I told them to be more confident,” Grice said. “You know you’re going to be nervous, but you have to play through it. The more confident (you are), the better performance you will have.”
He hopes to share advice on how to help your stock on the field, but also wanted to share what it means to be an NFL player beyond the pylon.
“It’s all business, and you need to keep a positive mindset. That’s why I feel like a lot of guys Coach Graham helps keep a positive mindset and (you need) to stay with the process.”
Now, Grice stands with his feet under him as an NFL player. He took advantage as a junior college transfer and ran his way into the ASU record books. He took advantage when his fellow birds in the Cardinals’ battered backfield went down and showed what he could do with limited time with a playbook for his current employer. With a season under his belt, he’s ready for another opportunity, an expanded role in the NFL, to come and take advantage.
“I feel like I’m about to come out and be myself. Come out like my senior year, I came out strong…I was comfortable, so that’s what I feel like now. I’m more comfortable, I’m getting stronger and faster,” Grice said. “I’m looking forward to this camp and showing everyone what I can do.”