Kelvin Grady catches on quickly for Wolverines

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Kelvin Grady's new Michigan teammates often chide him about having a smile tattooed on his face.

One possible explanation is that Grady, who joined Michigan's football team this summer after playing two seasons for the Wolverines basketball team, has yet to get his bell rung in a Big Ten game.

But that's not it. His smile comes from a healthy dose of perspective.

After Grady quit the Wolverines hoops team after the 2008-09 season, his future in both sports and school seemed uncertain.

"It crossed my mind that I wouldn't have anything," said Grady, who started 25 basketball games as a freshman before seeing his time reduced last year. "I'd be out. I'd be just like the rest of the guys back home who dropped out of college and didn't have anywhere else to go. But I'm too strong. I've got too much will. I've got a family that supports me. I've got a brother [Kevin, a senior running back for Michigan] that's working hard.

"There were too many things going to the point where I could drop my head and say, 'Nah, it's over.' I knew I was going to fight."

Grady has fought his way into the rotation at slot receiver despite not playing football since high school, when he was an all-state running back for East Grand Rapids High. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior, and originally intended to play both football and basketball at Michigan before going the hoops route.

The 5-foot-9, 168-pound sophomore is pushing projected starter Martavious Odoms and others for reps at the slot, which typically is the most productive receiver spot in head coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. Grady is currently classified as a walk-on, but Rodriguez expects to award several scholarships at the end of preseason camp, so Grady's chances of earning one look good.

"He's learned the system," Rodriguez said. "We've been, I don't want to say surprised, but really pleased with how quickly he's picked it up. He, in a sense, is a true freshman. ... It's a natural for him. It's been a good move."

Rodriguez spent a year and a half teasing Grady about playing football. The coach attended Michigan basketball games, noticed Grady's obvious athleticism and thought he'd be a good fit at slot receiver.

But only after Grady left the basketball team and contemplated leaving Michigan did the talks with Rodriguez get more serious.

"It was just one of those things, jokingly [where Rodriguez said], 'We gonna get you, we gonna get you on the field,'" Grady recalled. "And I would always look at this and be like, 'Nah, you're not going to get me. There's no way I'm getting on that football field.' But then the opportunity came and I really thought about it and put things in perspective. It's definitely something I wanted to do."

Rodriguez didn't make Grady any promises about playing time and told him he'd need to prove himself, first in Michigan's taxing strength program and then on the field at camp.

"If you're going to come over and try football, you better have a passion for it and you better love it,'" Rodriguez told Grady.

So far, it hasn't been a problem.

"Sometimes, I have to pinch myself because I'm here," he said. "At one point, my back was against the wall, didn't know where I was going to go. It's a blessing, man. It motivates me, it keeps me up, it keeps my smiling, it keeps things in perspective."