The bio of junior quarterback Garrett Grayson on the Colorado State website is a long, detailed one, full of factoids such as his 10,000 yards at Heritage High in Vancouver, Wash., and a notation that he was recruited by schools like Tennessee, Louisville and Oregon.
Washington took a hard look at Grayson, too, and so did Washington State. WSU saw him as a safety, ironic in that Grayson’s 3,327 yards passing in 2013 stands No. 1 on the CSU season passing list.
That’s not the connection to WSU, which meets the Rams in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday, that’s most poignant. For that one, you have to go down to the “personal“ section of that bio, where it says, “Uncle, Danny Grayson, was an All-American linebacker at Washington State, selected in the seventh round of the 1990 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
“I’m not very close to him,” confesses Garrett Grayson over the phone from Fort Collins.
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Nobody, not Dan Grayson, not his brother Brad — Garrett’s father — disputes that.
“That’s where it gets sad,” says Dan Grayson.
Back in the late ‘80s, Dan Grayson showed up at WSU during Dennis Erickson’s short regime, a walk-on from Woodland in southwest Washington. He had attended Wenatchee Valley JC, and was a rugged, physical player.
He recalled how one day during a spring practice in 1988, he made a big hit that forced a fumble, and Erickson halted practice and blurted, “Grayson! You’re on scholarship right now!”
Grayson also had a wrenching personal story to tell reporters. He said his father had been an alcoholic, and soon after the son went off to college, Dan’s mother Diane was killed by a drunk driver.
Perhaps the split with his brother began with an incident in 1988. Dan Grayson got into a fight with a friend in Pullman, and when Brad tried to intervene, Brad broke his brother’s jaw.
“I thought, ‘He’s gonna kill this guy,’ “ said Brad Grayson. “I pulled him off and told him to stop. He didn’t.”
The brothers had other issues later and drifted apart. They haven’t really communicated in perhaps 20 years.
“I wish I could tell you we’ve spent every Christmas together the last 15 years,” says Dan Grayson. “He and I were maybe just too competitive.”
Brad Grayson, asked if he sees any hope for the relationship, says, “I don’t know. Sometimes I think about it. It’ll cross my mind sometimes, but I don’t know if we’ll ever say ‘I’m sorry’ to each other.”
Dan Grayson went on to become All-Pac-10 in 1989 (that linebacker unit included the great Junior Seau). He lives in Kennewick, has three kids, and is a project manager for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory under the umbrella of the Department of Energy.
He says he follows his nephew’s career from a distance, and there’s been much to follow.
Garrett Grayson, 6 feet 2 and 220 pounds, turned down a chance to walk on at Washington, with the likelihood of a full ride after a year, and he declined WSU’s offer to play safety, saying, “I was never very big on defense.”
Brad Grayson and his son made the rounds of camps, one to Louisville, coached then by Steve Kragthorpe. The coach had been a staffmate of Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild with the Buffalo Bills in 2001-02, and Kragthorpe recommended Grayson to Fairchild.
Grayson started three games as a freshman in 2011, but at the end of the year, Fairchild was fired, giving way to ex-Alabama assistant and Northwest product Jim McElwain.
Grayson won the job in his first fall camp in 2012 under McElwain, but then broke a collarbone late in September and, his dad says, essentially disappeared.
“He didn’t know how to handle that,” said Brad Grayson. “He stopped going to practices and every school class he had. He went with his girlfriend for two weeks up in a snow cabin.”
Grayson thus had to earn his way back. The 2013 season began slowly, with losses to Colorado and Tulsa, and he texted his father: “Dad, why am I playing like crap?”
His dad preached fundamentals and says, “I think he was concentrating so much on losing that job, that he didn’t know how to win it.”
A 31-6 loss at top-ranked Alabama marked a turnaround. He was 24 of 38 for 228 yards without an interception, and ex-’Bama quarterback Greg McElroy texted him praise. Garrett says, “It just kind of opened guys’ eyes up. We had just played the No. 1 team in the nation, and we started to click as a team.”
CSU won six of its last nine, and is threatening a school record for season total offense.
Meanwhile, it won’t be only WSU fans in Albuquerque seeing Grayson play in person for the first time. Dan Grayson says he’s planning to attend.
“Athletics is great,” he said. “This is a good opportunity for his dad and I to reconnect, and have a good future through Garrett’s success.”
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org