Ready for Induction: KU Coach Grimes to Enter Henderson State Hall of Honor
July 25, 2011
Kansas offensive line coach J.B. Grimes still has to pinch himself when he realizes that he will be inducted into Henderson State’s Athletics Hall of Honor.
If one were to scan their eyes across the football field at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia, Ark., on an early fall day back in the mid 1970’s, they would most certainly have been able to find Grimes darting across the hash marks to make a game-saving tackle or block an opposing lineman from getting to his quarterback.
Fast forward more than a quarter of a century and Henderson State fans will still be able to see Grimes on the field, but this time he will be in a blazer and yielding a microphone. That is because the current offensive line coach at Kansas is scheduled to be inducted into his alma mater’s athletic department Hall of Honor, Saturday, Sept. 24.
“It is a huge honor because I played on so many good football teams with so many good players,” Grimes said. “I was not really a great player, I was not even a really good player, but I was what I like to call a `try-hard’ guy. I took the field, worked hard and helped out the team as best as I could.”
That modest attitude was bread into the Clarendon, Ark. Native when he was searching for a school and a program where he could successfully accomplish his goal of playing college football.
“I was a non-scholarship athlete who was recruited to walk-on wherever I went, the 35-year coaching veteran said. “I went around and watched Central Arkansas practice was well as Ouachita (Baptist University) and my last stop was at Henderson State. When I went over to Henderson, I knew that they were scrimmaging that day and I saw some really good players. I guess that was the coach coming out in my even then, but I could recognize talent,” he said.
“As we were getting ready to leave the practice area, the legendary coach there named Ralph `Sporty’ Carpenter came over to me and took me in his office to talk.”
Little did the then teenage Grimes know that this simple afternoon of window shopping for football programs would afford him a life-changing opportunity.
“Coach Carpenter sat down and talked with me and wanted me to come play football there, so I made a decision based on the talent the team had and the conversation I had with Sporty to go to Henderson State,” Grimes said.
During the next few years as Grimes’ collegiate career progressed, he found himself in the middle of one of the most successful runs Henderson State football has even seen, winning 40-football games in a four year stretch.
“It was really a great time that I would have not traded for anything in the world,” Grimes remembered. “Aside from winning all those games, we came away with three (conference) championships and were really close to winning a NAIA National Championship. I even managed to play my way into a scholarship there, which I had to work my tail off to accomplish.”
Others outside of the Henderson State football program began to take notice of the talent Grimes possessed as he was named to the all-conference team during the 1976 season.
The former collegiate stand-out gives much of the credit for his hard-nosed work-ethic to a former teammate, who played in an important role in his early development as player and as a teammate.
“I went to Henderson and they gave me a jersey my freshman year, but there was really another number I wanted. There was a senior my true freshman year named Silas Johnson, who I thought was one of the finest leaders that I have ever seen,” he remembered.
“I really looked up to the guy and at the beginning of my sophomore year, I wanted his jersey because I just knew that was the kind of guy that I wanted to be. He was someone who did not say a lot, but was a hard worker, so that is why I wanted his number and eventually got it.”
Looking back at his time in Arkadelphia, Grimes cannot help but think of some of his other teammates, like Johnson who are also deserving of this great honor.
“It is humbling for me because there are a lot of other players who deserve this a lot more than I do,” Grimes said. “We were really talented and had a lot of good players, especially on defense.”
As for the players he now mentors on the field at Kansas, who hope to someday have their name and number painted on the horseshoe at Memorial Stadium, Grimes offers some rather simple advice.
“I would say to do what is right both on and off the field,” he said. “I was at school to play football, but I was also there to get a degree, so I was a student athlete in the truest sense of the word. I tell my current players to do what you are supposed to do in the classroom and then go out every day on the practice field and play as well and as hard as you physically can.”
Even with his sage advice, there are no kind words he could give to any coach who might be recruiting a player such as himself, partly because he saw the younger Grimes as a unique commodity.
“There is nobody that I have ever coached that reminds me of myself,” the football lifer said as he let out a chuckle. “I tell people that I would have not even recruited me if I saw myself play back in the day.”
Even so, there is one intangible that Grimes says is important for any football player to have regardless of their talent level.
“I have always believed that if you are going to excel in this game, you have to love it. The scholarship is just not worth it if you do not enjoy playing,” he said. “Back in those days we were not choir boys by any means, but the one thing that kept us together and focused was that we loved the game of football.”
After listening to Grimes’ Hall of Honor speech at half-time of Henderson State’s game against Delta State in September, it would not be out of the realm of possibility that there will be another high school football player in the stands who is looking to make a similar jump to the collegiate level. After hearing Grime’s speech and story it is within reason, that like Grimes did with Silas Johnson, another football youngster will want J.B. Grimes’ jersey to play hard-nosed football for the Henderson State Reddies.