Pro football

Highland's Ryan Grigson has made Colts relevant again as GM

2013-01-05T22:00:00Z 2013-01-09T20:47:11Z Highland's Ryan Grigson has made Colts relevant again as GMAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
January 05, 2013 10:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | It may be the quickest comeback since Lazarus.

The Colts staggered through a 2-14 season in 2011, then hired Ryan Grigson away from the Philadelphia Eagles as their new general manager, and now find themselves playoff bound at 11-5.

All of this in barely one year.

Grigson was a real find, it turns out: smart, intuitive and with a work ethic rivaling that of army ants.

A Highland grad and former Purdue offensive lineman, Grigson is winning with a rookie quarterback, a new coach, one of the league's youngest rosters, and a gritty, blue-collar mentality that comes from growing up in 'Da Region.'

"My one grandfather worked at Standard Oil all his life. My other grandfather worked at Lever Brothers all his life. My father hung dry wall," Grigson said.

"I want kids from the area to realize that if you work your butt off and you go to college, follow your dreams and don't listen to the naysayers, you can make something of yourself."

So proud is Grigson of his region roots, that after he was hired as the Colts' GM last January, he sent more than 100 footballs to the entire student body at Our Lady of Grace parochial school in Highland, where he once was a student.

It didn't take long for the Eagles' long-time scout and former director of player personnel to put his stamp on the Colts with several changes on and off the field, some painful, others risky and controversial.

He hired little-known Chuck Pagano as coach, cut beloved 35-year-old quarterback Peyton Manning, let a few popular veterans walk, made eye-opening trades, hit the bulls-eye on draft picks and never questioned himself.

"He's a tireless worker," rookie QB Andrew Luck noted. "He has a great enthusiasm and love for football, which has spread throughout our locker room."

Married and the father of five young children, Grigson regards the roster he's assembled — with the blessing of Colts owner Jim Irsay — as being family.

"I well up with pride in such a big way just thinking about what they had staring them in the face," Grigson said, "being picked last in the power rankings, losing our head coach (with cancer), going from a 4-3 (defense) to a 3-4, learning a whole new offensive system, and having the veterans who won all those championships and got all those banners hanging in our facility gone now."

The Colts shook it off and won with seven fourth-quarter comebacks, including against Minnesota and Green Bay.

They locked up a wildcard spot with 17 of their 20 coaches being new and 13 players on injured reserve.

"Everyone said, 'You have no chance, you guys are gonna be bad, it's a rebuilding year,' then we lose our head coach on top of it all," Grigson said. "But no matter what happens during a game, they just keep clawing and fighting until there are no more ticks on the clock. It just speaks to the resiliency of our team. That's what I'm most proud of."

Houston, you had a problem in Indy

Grigson was literally floating through the press box Sunday as his Colts shocked Houston, 28-16, giving them a 7-1 record at home.

Among the highlights was a 101-yard kickoff return by fourth-string running back Deji Karim, whom Grigson brought back after he was waived in August. Call it another hunch that paid off.

"He's just as important as anybody else here. He's a great guy, straight up with ya," Karim said of his GM. "I've got a lot of respect for him. I love this organization. I don't have the words to say how much."

Watch these Colts in action, start to finish, and you see a bit of Ryan Grigson in every player.

"There's always 11 hats to the ball on defense," he said. "It doesn't matter who we have playing on our defensive line. They may get beat and Andrew may take some shots, but they just focus on the next play.

"Nothing makes me happier than watching us play hard, lights-out football and being a team."

Cornerback Vontae Davis had two interceptions Sunday, one of which led to a Colts touchdown. It was Grigson who got Davis in a trade with Miami.

"He's done an exceptional job," Davis said. "It's like finding the right pieces to a puzzle. To bounce back from a two-win season to an 11-win season speaks volumes about him."

Back on the front page

Thanks to Grigson, the Colts are relevant once again.

Ask Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak.

"It's got to be considered one of the finer jobs done in football in a long time," Kubiak said. "When you flip the organization like he did, the way they were able to make it work, I can't tell you how impressed I am."

Eagles' General Manager Howie Roseman, Grigson's former boss, is among the growing list of admirers.

"First of all, you're talking about a terrific person. Intelligent. A grinder. No rock unturned," Roseman said. "Ryan has a great feel for building a team and finding talent. It's 'instinct.'

"I know great things are in store for him now and the sky's the limit for his potential as general manager of the Indianapolis Colts."

Dru Grigson, regional scout for the Arizona Cardinals, never had a doubt his big brother would make it.

"It's amazing what's going on down there," he said. "It was a crazy curve ball with their coach getting cancer, but they've got good leadership.

"When you've got a locker room as tight-knit and with one goal, they're tough to beat. My brother's done a phenomenal job, executive of the year type work."

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