Growing up is hard

drew.kochanny

The softer side of Alex Grignon isn’t something NMU football’s hard-nosed safety had ever really shown, that is, until Quincy came into his life.

Grignon, a four-year starter for the Wildcats, and girlfriend Vanessa Anderson welcomed baby Quincy on June 19, giving them someone new to love and one more task to tackle.

“I have a family now, and every decision I make is going to affect my family,” Grignon said. “I have to put family first, and it’s easy to put family first because I love them so much.”

The change wasn’t something that affected only the lives of Vanessa and Grignon but Wildcat football head coach Bernie Anderson as well.

Vanessa, is Anderson’s daughter, and gave the football coach a grandson.

“Whether you’re 15 years old or 50, when God gives you a little one, it’s a gift. And that’s exactly how we look at it,” Anderson said. “It’s a great gift from God, and it couldn’t be any better.”

But it’s no easy job to perform. Taking on the new task of being a father, while also a college athlete and full time student, is a taxing duty.

“Every move he makes is setting an example because he is a role model now, even though Quincy is only two months old,” Vanessa said. “He knows that he is a father figure.”

“He has balanced his time with family, school and football to the point that he optimizes his time with each well,” she added.

Vanessa was forced to make sacrifices as well as she was a member of the NMU track team where she ran sprints and participated in pole vault. Vanessa still loves to run and stays close with team members, but feels her priorities have shifted.

“I would love to pick it up again, with faith that I could get my strength and speed back,” Vanessa said, “but my priorities have shifted to something I love more and track has become more of a hobby for me running is an activity I enjoy to do as more of a hobby and not so much as competition.”

In addition to Grignon guiding his son, stepping up to be a leader of a young Wildcat defense is something that he has taken upon himself. The defense returns only five starters from last season’s group and five of the players expected to start will be sophomores or red-shirt freshman; all who will be looking to the experienced players, such as Grignon, for guidance.

“After both of us found out that we were going to be parents, we both grew up real fast and matured,” Grignon said. “As a senior now, in my last season of football, I’m stepping up and becoming a leader.”

Grignon, who recorded 44 tackles last season, along with two fumble recoveries, will be looking to improve on last season’s individual performance and the overall team record of 5-5.

“I think he has a very good understanding of where his priorities are – where he puts his effort, his attitude toward all of them; he’s enjoying life, and I think he’s enjoying his role,” Anderson said. “He’s carried a very positive attitude, and his performances have increased and gotten better.”

“I think he has a super attitude right now and is playing the best he has in four years,” he added.

Junior linebacker and team captain Nathan Yelk came to NMU in the same recruiting class as Grignon. The two players have played together for three years, including last season’s final game against defending national champion Grand Valley State, where each player started on defense.

Yelk admitted he has noticed the maturity level of Grignon increase over the years, especially recently.

“He has matured a lot as a player and obviously as a person now, being a father,” Yelk said, “You can tell by the way he carries himself.”

Having the support and aid of family and friends is something both Vanessa and Grignon have had throughout the entire process and something that has been important to both.

“Our families have both been there from the start,” Vanessa said. “Realizing that we are young and that we are going to need their support – they have been our backbone since we were kids and want to make sure we raise our children to be the best they can be.”

At 7:03 a.m. the morning Quincy was born, Grignon had been at the hospital with Vanessa for six hours. He said he felt it hard to put into words, just how he felt the first time he saw his baby boy.

“It was nerve racking waiting,” Grignon said. “And it was a hard feeling to explain the first time I saw him, just how much you instantly love him.”

Spending time with Quincy is the biggest joy Grignon said he has, and he is looking forward to the future with his son, from playing video games with him to teaching him the game of football.

“Being a dad puts life in perspective for you. In the past, on the field I’ve kind of felt like losses or mistakes were the end of the world, but now, win, lose or draw, when I come home Quincy isn’t going to care how his dad did,” Grignon said. “He is just going to care that his dad is home and it’s time to play.”