Brent Grimes’ son Aiden is just 2 years old. And like his dad, Aiden can’t stay still.
“What’s this, daddy?” Aiden asked, pointing to a set of sewage pipes after a Dolphins training camp practice.
“No, leave that alone,” Dad responded with a chuckle.
And so on it went for a couple of minutes. No, Aiden, the elder Grimes would say, you can’t touch the Gatorade cooler. Put down the hose, too.
The apple, as they say, doesn’t fall far from the tree. Grimes, the Dolphins’ talented new cornerback, is a bundle of energy. When he’s not skipping around practice during stretches, he’s dribbling a football with the skill of a point guard.
And so when Grimes was out of commission for almost all of last season, his leg immobilized because of a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, it was pure torture.
“Just to be sitting up, laid up, can’t move, that was the worst part,” Grimes said.
Beginning Sept. 8, Grimes will finally have a true outlet for all that pent-up energy.
His long, frustrating recovery is over, and as a superb training camp has suggested, he’s arguably as good as ever. The former Pro Bowl cornerback, who signed a one-year deal with Miami in the offseason, could potentially take a Dolphins liability in 2012 — their pass defense — and turn it into a strength.
Dolphins fans got a taste of it in the team’s third preseason game, when Grimes made a diving interception off Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.
“The guy’s a freak,” Dolphins standout safety Reshad Jones said. “He helps us. He’s seen and done a lot in this league.”
And he says he’s fully healthy, just a year after sustaining what might have been a career-killing injury a few decades ago.
Grimes’ Falcons were blowing out the Chiefs in the 2012 opener when the defensive back broke on a routine 5-yard pattern. He felt a sharp pain in his calf and looked back to see who kicked him. But no one was around. Instead, the pain was from his Achilles tearing, a season-ending injury that needed surgery.
A devastating turn of events for a player in his contract season, for sure. But Grimes has made a habit of beating the odds.
He grew up in West Oak Lane, a rough part of Philadelphia, but managed to avoid trouble. He was a running back in high school, but because of his size — he’s 5-10, 190 pounds — no big-time college program gave him a serious look.
But Jeff Nixon, then an assistant at Division II Shippensburg (Pa.) University, saw something in the undersized kid. He lured Grimes to the small in-state school some three hours west of home.
Remarkably, they’ve reunited in South Florida; Nixon is the Dolphins’ running backs coach.
“I knew right away he was going to be a special player for us in college,” Nixon said. “I think you have a big-play corner.
“I know he’s going to great things for us with the Dolphins.”
It was at Shippensburg where he shifted to the defensive backfield. Once he was convinced to take the game seriously, Grimes blossomed into a two-time All-American. He went undrafted out of college, but caught on with the Falcons, first on special teams and then — after a stint in NFL Europe — as an every-down corner.
He made the Pro Bowl in 2010, and was supposed to be a cornerstone of the Falcons’ defense in 2012. But that all changed with the freak injury, which Grimes believed was at least partially because of a change in routine.
Grimes usually doesn’t take any energy supplements before the game. Why would he, considering he has enough natural pep to power a small city? But he went against instinct and had a shake just before the Chiefs game. By late in regulation, he had crashed from the artificial high, and thinks that the fatigue might have led to the tear.
Grimes was done for the season, and done in Atlanta. He entered the free agent market last year with a major red flag, and had trouble finding a team that would make a long-term commitment. Instead, Grimes signed the one-year deal with the Dolphins and has set out to prove himself yet again.
“I think I’m going to play very well this year,” Grimes said. “I’m really excited. You just feel like you’re wanted here. That’s a good feeling.”
Not surprisingly, the Dolphins are happy to have him. They surrendered 248 passing yards per game last year, sixth-most in football. But Grimes believes Miami now has the talent to be a top-five defense this fall.
And for as much as father and son like to move around, Grimes would like to stay put, at least professionally. He hopes to parlay his one-year audition into a multiyear deal.
“That would be great,” Grimes said. “No one wants to just bounce around all over the place.”
Well, except maybe Aiden.