Tony Grimes went to school in the US and is now an award-winning author of several books. He has written about how he was able to overcome his dyslexia, which led him to becoming a best-selling author.
Tony Grimes has a loud, extroverted demeanor in normal times. Grimes and his twin brother, Tino, grew up working in customer service, collecting tickets and chatting up customers for their father, Deon Glover, who owns a fleet of ferry boats that transport people between Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia. Grimes’ father knew everyone, so Grimes did as well.
When he was a sophomore in high school, Grimes was clearly confident, practicing on defensive back drills against NFL guys and talking trash the whole time. @757EliteDB is his Twitter account, which he established when he was 15 years old. Grimes is from “the 757” (Virginia Beach, home to Michael Vick, Allen Iverson, Dre Bly, and a slew of other superstars), and he was already a top defensive back at the age of 15.
However, last autumn, in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, was far from usual. Grimes, a five-star recruit, chose to forgo his senior year and enroll early at North Carolina when the state decided to cancel the high school football season due to the illness. He worked out all summer, attended online courses to get his degree, and then he was in new territory.
Critics said that Grimes, who would be 18 in April 2020, was not mature enough to make such a dramatic transition to college. It looked far-fetched even at North Carolina, where Grimes represented the pinnacle of coach Mack Brown’s recruiting prowess. While Ohio State’s Quinn Ewers wants to make the same leap this season, in part to take advantage of new name, image, and likeness regulations, Grimes’ choice to forego his senior year was almost unprecedented.
Brown said, “I didn’t want to take him.” “I felt he was under too much stress. I didn’t want him to be unable to complete his final year. None of it appealed to me.”
Try telling @757EliteDB that.
He played a joke on his parents a few weeks before leaving for UNC, persuading them that he had been caught for stealing by imitating a collect call from prison using a Google voice app. In Grimes’ view, the joke came when Glover said to his wife, Cynthia, “He isn’t prepared! He isn’t prepared!” Grimes felt it was a suitable parody of all the skeptics.
Then Deon and Cynthia put their son down in North Carolina on a humid August morning in 2020, and it stopped being so amusing. On his first night at Chapel Hill, Grimes laid in his dorm bed, maybe for the first time in his life, alone, as the gravity of his choice struck him.
Grimes was dominating in the Orange Bowl at the end of the year — “not my full swag, but I had swag,” he said. The hotshot from “the 757” began his career as an overwhelmed freshman on a rebuilding team in a place where he knew no one, all while dealing with a worldwide epidemic. He’d have to confront a reality much more harsh than he’d anticipated before regaining the confidence that had made him a high school superstar.
He reflected, “I’m here by myself.” “I can’t go anyplace since my parents have gone. I have to get up in the morning and go to practice because everything occurred so quickly.”
MISERY WAS THE FIRST PRACTICE. If you ask Bly, now the defensive backs coach at North Carolina, about Grimes’ early attempts, he’ll leap out of his seat and do a cartoonish imitation of him: hands on hips, knees bowed, eyes wide, head bobbing side to side. Coaches yelled instructions, and Grimes nodded in agreement but didn’t comprehend a word since he was too tired to absorb counsel from the sideline. Grimes’ feet seemed to be trapped in Carolina tar as receivers moved at breakneck speed.
Grimes stated, “I was tormented to the point that I didn’t win a single rep.” “Every ball on me was being caught by Dyami [Brown] and Dazz [Newsome]. ‘Oh, maybe I’m a flop,’ I was thinking to myself.”
On the squad, Grimes had no close pals. He had formed bonds with 2021 recruits, but they were still a year away from joining him in Chapel Hill. Grimes anticipated that his teammates would label him as the over-hyped recruit who believed he was talented enough to skip a year of high school, and he didn’t want that to be the story. Instead, he took a step too much to the side.
“I didn’t want to walk in there arrogant or saying, ‘Oh, he’s a five star,’ and I got locked into that,” he said.
He wore headphones over his ears during exercises, tossed his suitcase in the corner, and went to work without saying anything. Grimes recalls going home to his dorm every few days and seeing one of the older cornerbacks drive by, slow down, and offer the rookie a ride.
Each time, Grimes replied, “Nah.” “I’m OK.”
He’d then put his headphones back on and go home by himself.
In any case, there was limited possibility for socializing under the COVID-19 procedures. Grimes devoured the playbook late at night at his dorm. According to Bly, he got everything down pat in only a few weeks. He’d wake up early in the morning and go to the gym to work out. Since high school, he had always been “the first man in the building,” and Brown even phoned Glover one day to brag about how much time Grimes spent preparing. There was, however, more to it. Grimes like arriving early because he could work alone and since the preparation was something he was used to.
The effort started to bear fruit. Only strength coach Brian Hess appeared to notice that he made a couple plays. Hess would yell from the sideline whenever Grimes swatted away a throw, “He’s just 15! He’s supposed to be in high school!” He was 18, of course, but that wasn’t the point. He was still the high school kid on a field among adult guys, even after he won a drill.
Eventually, the annoyance became unbearable. Grimes took up the phone and dialed his mother’s number: “I need to see you guys, Dad. Are you able to join us?”
After that, Grimes went to Bly’s office and told his position coach of his choice. He had made a joke about his father’s response to the prank call six weeks before. He was now ready to accept Glover was correct.
He informed Bly he wasn’t ready. He requested that he be redshirted.
Grimes joined the Tar Heels following a pitch from Virginia Beach great Dre Bly, who is now the defensive backs coach at North Carolina. Getty Images/Mark Brown
Bly was the sole real connection to home in Chapel Hill. Bly was a one-time top recruit, a college football Hall of Famer, and a Super Bowl winner, and he was another hotshot defensive back from “the 757.” Grimes used to play on a field named after Bly when he was younger. When Bly last played in the NFL, Grimes was in elementary school, but he claimed he’d still play old Madden video games simply to play like Bly.
Grimes has been a standout prospect since he was in seventh grade, when he received his first offer from Virginia Tech. He received offers from Ohio State and Alabama by his second year. When he received a call from Bly, he was already putting out his official top-15 list while having lunch at Texas A&M in 2020. Bly acknowledged that UNC was rebuilding, but Grimes might be the turning point, the recruit who shifts the Tar Heels’ fortunes.
Grimes hung up and looked at the list of colleges he had written down.
“I simply thought I’d create a top-16 list,” Grimes said.
It was a mixed gift for Grimes to have his idol as his position coach.
Bly was a legend, first as a high school standout in Virginia Beach, then as an All-American at North Carolina. But what remains with Bly years after his playing days are the thoughts that he might have accomplished much more if he had been a little more focused and dedicated. It’s a lesson in how he wants to bring this next potential star from “the 757” along with him.
“I never informed him that he had come,” Bly said. “I believe he should have intercepted the ball if he made a good breakdown on a play. ‘Homeboy, I had 13 of those my freshman year,’ for example.”
Bly recognized something unique in Grimes, a rare combination of top skill and a strong work ethic, and he wasn’t going to let him waste any of it.
“What’s the purpose of all this hullabaloo if you don’t follow through on your commitment?” Bly remarked. “Being a five-star comes with a responsibility, in my opinion. Being Tony Grimes entails a certain amount of responsibility. It is my responsibility to assist him in fulfilling his duty.”
Bly phoned Deon in Virginia Beach after that first terrible practice, Grimes didn’t realize it at the time.
“By November, your kid will be beginning,” he remarked.
Grimes had seemed lost and beaten, but Bly could see that he could still ball. Bly’s faith has only grown stronger in the weeks afterwards. Grimes has no intention of redshirting. He was supposed to start, play, and become a superstar.
He didn’t tell Grimes about it, however. Instead, Bly just told Grimes, “You’re going to be OK,” when he arrived to his office ready to give up on the season.
It was as if a curtain had been removed.
“I said to myself, ‘He’s correct,’” Grimes said. “Lock in, unwind, and let’s grab this money,” says the narrator.
Soon later, Deon and Cynthia paid a visit to Chapel Hill. They didn’t locate the homesick youngster looking for a way back to his former life when they arrived. Tony Grimes, a rising college football player, was discovered.
Grimes (center) with his family, which includes Deon and Cynthia Glover, as well as his twin brother Tino. Deon Glover is a character in the film Deon Glover
GRIMES MEETED TRAINER Giavanni Ruffin, a former East Carolina star who returned to his hometown of Virginia Beach and established a gym that catered to hundreds of high-profile players, when he was in seventh grade. Glover saw a possible fit between Grimes’ drive and Ruffin’s rigorous TNDO — “Take No Days Off” — training regimen and linked the two. Grimes had an immediate impact.
Ruffin stated, “He told me he wants to be great.” “And I warned him that it would be difficult.”
The first meeting went on late into the night. Grimes had previously followed a standard conditioning regimen of weight lifting and cardio, but Ruffin included balancing drills and mobility exercises, boxing, and sled pushing to build explosiveness, all of which Grimes had never seen before. Grimes ended up dragging a rope attached to a vehicle down the small roadway that went through the business park outside Ruffin’s gym, puking all the way.
“I woke up the following day thinking, ‘I don’t want to leave,’” Grimes said. “Then I replied, ‘No, you have to lock in if you want to be great, the way people are talking about you.’”
Ruffin took a picture of his new student, who was hunched over and vomiting. He shared it on Instagram, partly to let others know that his workouts pushed athletes to their boundaries, and partly to let the world know what Grimes had told him only hours before: This kid is going to be amazing.
“I pushed him through hell,” Ruffin recalled, “and he kept battling and came back for more.”
That’s what Jay Bateman, the defensive coordinator for the North Carolina Tar Heels, was hoping to see out on the practice fields. Grimes had begun to win his share of fights against quarterback Sam Howell and the Tar Heels offense by midseason, but Bateman was cautious about overburdening him. Early failure had ruined careers before, and Grimes was much too valuable a commodity to risk until the coaches were convinced he was ready.
During a passing exercise at practice in early November, the time came. Lonnie Galloway, the wide receivers coach, wanted the cornerback to play off the line, allowing Brown, Newsome, and the other wideouts room to run. The experienced DBs failed to contain Carolina’s receivers one by one. It was now Grimes’ time. The receiver took a step forward and then pivoted upfield. Grimes grabbed him from behind and threw him to the ground. Teammates erupted on the sideline, with offense screaming at defense and defense cheering and chanting, “Do it again!”
As a result, they lined up once again. This time, the receiver attempted to exploit Grimes’ aggression by running a vertical route that he believed would leave the rookie in his wake. Grimes, on the other hand, wrapped himself over him like a blanket and tossed the ball away.
Bateman smiled as he glanced at Bly.
He said, “I believe he’s ready.”
UNC was down big against Wake Forest a week later, and the Tar Heels’ defense looked like a shambles. Bateman decided it was past time to discover what Grimes was capable of.
Grimes played 26 plays in the second half, all but five of them in coverage, and he only allowed one nine-yard completion. Wake Forest had completed 73 percent of their passes before to Grimes’ arrival, averaging 11 yards per pass play. After Grimes came in, the Demon Deacons only completed 8 of 16 passes (averaging only 3.5 yards per dropback), but UNC overcame a 14-point deficit to win 59-53.
“We threw him in,” Bateman recalled, “and I believe he played every snap the rest of the way from there.”
At the age of 15, Grimes started working on defensive back exercises against NFL players on the Princess Anne practice field in Virginia Beach during his sophomore year. Deon Glover is a character in the film Deon Glover
Grimes’ potential was so great as a high school prospect that his trainers refused to let him compete against players his own age. When he was 15 and 16, he ran drills against collegiate stars and NFL receivers. Grimes’ DB trainer in Virginia Beach, Aaron Johnson, recalls sending Grimes out to cover Arizona Cardinals receiver Greg Dortch during a practice, earning the NFL speedster a mocking chuckle. Grimes draped himself over Dortch on the first throw, breaking fast on the ball and knocking it away. Dortch was enraged.
Dortch shouted, refusing to match up with the youngster again, “I shouldn’t be out here with him!” “He’s in high school,” says the narrator.
It was an all-too-familiar refrain. Older receivers were beaten and enraged, but they eventually became believers.
“Dortch was like, ‘OK, that guy’s really good,’” Johnson said. “You see him play and know he’ll be playing on Sundays. Then those people start pointing him in the right direction because they know he’ll be the next great thing.”
No, Grimes was unfazed by his first collegiate start, a top-10 matchup against Notre Dame on Nov. 27. Perhaps for the first time since arriving in North Carolina, he had a strong sense that he belonged on that field.
On the other hand, Notre Dame believed it had an opportunity to target the freshman, who should have been studying for midterms in Virginia Beach. Early on, Irish quarterback Ian Book went after Grimes’ side of the field. It reminded Grimes of all the NFL players he had met when he was 16 years old.
“I’ve been thinking all week that I’m ready,” Grimes remarked. “They have no idea what I’m capable of. They have no idea what they’re going to go through. ‘I’m a beast,’ I thought as I locked in.”
North Carolina lost the game, 31-17, but Grimes held his own in coverage, allowing just 19 yards of offense over 33 plays. One pass, an out route that Book believed he could loft over the rookie DB, was swatted away by Grimes, who seemed to extend his arm to an unimaginable length.
Grimes intercepted his first pass two weeks later in a rout of Miami to close off the regular season. While several of UNC’s top players opted out of the Orange Bowl, Grimes made the most of his opportunity. Over 61 plays, he didn’t allow a single completion, breaking up two passes and sacking Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond to round off his effort.
UNC safety Trey Morrison stated, “Those are the moments Tony is hoping for.” “Those are the moments he’s spent his whole life preparing for.”
Grimes has established himself at North Carolina, where he was just elected to the leadership council. Getty Images/Andy Mead/ISI Photos
LONG BEFORE UNC, Grimes recognized the need to live up to expectations, as Bly later put it. Aaron Glover, his step-brother, was also a local football standout. He went on to play collegiate football at Liberty, where he had NFL-caliber potential, before having a kid and shifting his focus away from sports. Deon and Cynthia made it a point to remind Grimes of the narrative, a cautionary tale about the perilous nature of potential.
“‘I got this,’ I assured my folks. We’re going to be OK no matter what,’ says the narrator “Grimes said. “And I’m carrying it on my shoulders. That means something to me since I’m determined to succeed no matter what.”
After the NCAA removed limitations on name, image, and likeness this summer, Grimes has a slogan he’s now imprinted on T-shirts he’s selling: “Be Great Today.” It’s a lovely gesture, but it doesn’t seem to suit Grimes, who has always been more concerned with the larger picture. He took additional courses as a freshman in high school, never thinking he’d need to start college early. He trained until he was completely exhausted, knowing that he’d be happy to do it all over again the following day. He practiced against NFL receivers because he aspired to play in the league himself. He’s always been able to see the broader picture. He imagined a future that only he could completely comprehend, and then he willed it into reality.
Grimes bulked up in the weight room this summer after a difficult start at UNC, adding close to 20 pounds to his body, and he’s back to his old self, joyful and fun but maybe a little more mature.
Grimes was a sucker for practical jokes, and he tortured his parents for years with them, such as when he installed an app on his father’s new 75-inch TV that caused the screen to crack, or when he broke the living room couch by doing a swan dive onto it as part of a joke about Duke he recorded for his TikTok account. Grimes, on the other hand, claimed he’s stopped making such jokes as well. He wants to express himself in more mature ways, he added.
Headphones are also no longer mandatory clothing. He’s cheerful and friendly in the locker room, despite the fact that he still comes to the gym early and doesn’t mind being the only one in the weight room. In the locker room, he’s also found his place. He’s a people guy, he added, and he’s finally found his tribe. Grimes was elected to North Carolina’s leadership council this summer, demonstrating how far he’s gone in forming relationships with teammates.
This seems to be more in line with Grimes’ goal for his year at UNC, but it isn’t his final destination.
On the day he committed to North Carolina, Grimes stated, “We most certainly can win a national championship.” “We’ll do it. We’re going to win a natty before I go.”
It’s simple to dismiss it as a case of young euphoria. In Grimes’ career, North Carolina has never finished in the top ten. Grimes, on the other hand, has a different perspective.
He said, “We talk about our dreams because I believe that you can speak it into reality.” “Sometimes what you say is exactly how things will turn out.
“They may think we’re overrated, but we’ll surprise them. We’re going to win the National League. It’s obvious to me.”