The Ohio State Buckeyes won the first College Football Playoff National Championship earlier this year, and two Seniors who played key roles on that team are in Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine. Cornerback Doran Grant, a two-year starter, and wide receiver Devin Smith, a big-play threat, are close friends from the Akron area and made the transition to college football four years ago.
Now the two veteran Buckeyes are getting ready to live out their shared NFL dream and are happy to be showing NFL teams what they can do.
As it turned out, the shared history for Grant and Smith goes much farther back than when they met playing youth football about ten years ago. On Saturday at the Combine, Grant told the media a story about how the two players found out that they were actually distant cousins well after they arrived on campus in Columbus.
(We're related) on my father's side, (Smith's) dad's side. We have family down in Grady, Alabama. His grandmother had passed and they're cleaning out those things in the house. He seen a family tree, a pedigree...then he sees my dad's name and he's like "hold up." He does down (the list) then of course my name's there 'cause I'm his son. So we call each other and we're like "wait, we're related! Oh, that's why we always hung out together!" 'Cause we've known each other since we were, (when) we actually met I was 12 years old, (maybe) 13.
Despite that shared history, though, the two players seem to have very different playing styles. Smith is a burner - he was the most dangerous deep threat in college football in 2014, leading the FBS in yards per reception, catches of more than 30 yards, and touchdowns of more than 30 yards. That speed was the first thing Grant mentioned when discussing the wideout, but added that "he can jump, too. He adjusts to the ball very well. We have good reps in practice."
Grant, on the other hand, has a perception of being one of the most physical corners in the Big Ten, but not necessarily having the speed or change of direction ability to hand with receivers running sharp cuts.
However, when discussing Grant in his press conference on Thursday at the Combine, Smith appears to think otherwise:
Doran Grant is one of the best corners in the Big Ten, if not the nation, in my opinion. He's very fluid with his hips. That's my cousin as well. He's a competitor and he's very, very strong and he's fast as well.
Grant also played against some of the country's best wide receivers, including Alabama's Amari Cooper, and held up well; while Cooper did make nine catches and had two touchdowns, he was held to 71 yards, his third-lowest total in a game in the entire 2014 season.
Smith timed at 4.42 on Saturday, but Grant said that he thinks he can keep up with Smith on the track, saying he's "excited" for running defensive back drills on Monday and that "it's only a matter of time" until the NFL takes notice of his skills. The two players also prepared for the Combine together in Pensacola along with a number of other players. During Grant's interview, the wide receivers were running their 40-yard dashes and he mentioned William & Mary's Tre McBride (4.41) and Georgia's Chris Conley (4.35) as other players with whom he and Smith trained and whose performances gave him confidence in running a fast dash.
With Smith projected to go around the second round of the draft and Grant in the middle rounds, there's a possibility that these longtime teammates and cousins could end up together once again at the next level. It