Grant Brown has been a walk-on kicker/punter on the UM football team for the last four years. He has worked out in the hot sun, three to four hours a day, five days a week.
But he has never made it onto the field to kick in a game.
Grant is my brother. I always knew that he loved sports, but I never envisioned him as a Division-I player, especially on a team like the University of Miami Hurricanes.
Grant never thought about playing football until his junior year in high school. He played soccer for East Allegheny High School, just outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a soccer teammate of his, Joe Zewe, kicked for the football team. After Zewe graduated, Grant decided to give kicking a shot.
At age 17, with such little experience, what made him think that he could walk-on to a football program as prestigious as UM?
His dream became a family project. That summer, my dad, my twin brother, Wade, and I would join him in the football field two or three times a week, acting as placeholders so that he could improve his kicking game.
The next year, Grant helped East Allegheny win the conference in football. And he felt confident enough to try to walk-on as a kicker at Miami.
He made the UM squad in spring of his freshman year.
As an undergraduate sports administration major, Grant said he practically had two jobs, although he doesn’t get paid for either.
“Not to take anything away from other students that have jobs, but we get beat up and hit for three hours in the hot sun almost everyday as opposed to maybe sitting in a lab at a desk or working in the Wellness Center for a few hours,” Brown said. “Many of the players are getting full rides to be here. Obviously as a walk-on, I am not.”
Now an international business graduate student, Grant is midway through his last year with the team.
I asked him would it be a disappointment if he never gets to kick in a game?
“To a degree, yes,” he told me recently. “Although, my main reason for being part of this team is to help win us a championship. If we can win, it will be worth it.
“I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t want to play. It’s tough to not be in the game, because I feel I can truly contribute to this team.”
The life of a UM football player, even a walk-on, is more challenging than most can imagine.
Walk-ons aren’t treated any differently in terms of practice time or in the weight room, according to Grant.
On a typical day, he wakes up at 7:15 a.m. for an 8 a.m. class and then runs to the shuttle for a 9:45 a.m. workout. Then it’s a shower and a quick breakfast to make a class at 11 a.m.
The rest of his day includes back-to-back obligations including a football meeting at 1:45 p.m. Then he and the other kickers practice until 5:15 p.m.
Even though he’s spent four years on the sidelines, Grant describes his experience as a walk-on football player at UM as an “opportunity.”
“It has different meanings for me. For instance, when I first got here, my opportunity was to make the team,” he said. “My second meaning was the opportunity to move up on the depth charts, to be more than just the freshman walk-on kicker.”
Grant is now the third kicker on the depth chart. With four games left on the regular season, there’s still a chance he’ll make it onto the field to kick. If he doesn’t, he said, he’ll still be happy to have gotten so close to the goal he set for himself during high school.
“Having been a kicker on the team gives me a great opportunity to pursue a career,” he said. “And to proudly put University of Miami football on my résumé.”
Kent Brown may be contacted at email@example.com.