Miramar man on a mission

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- There's little doubt that Miramar (Fla.) linebacker Jermaine Grace is a great athlete.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior racked up 115 tackles and four sacks last season for the Patriots en route to an appearance in the Class 8A state championship game.

On Saturday, in the Elite Scouting Services combine at Cardinal Gibbons, Grace ran an eye-popping 4.43 in the 40-yard dash. While that number was surprising to several observers, it wasn't a shock to Grace.

"I expected to go low, but I don't think that was the best run I could have," Grace said. "I still have to continue to get faster and get better with all my movements."

As one of the state's premier outside linebackers, Grace is being recruited by many of the top programs in the state of Florida.

This year, he will also be expected to be a leader on and off the field. He is one of the few returning members of last season's Miramar team that lost 31-20 to Plant (Tampa, Fla.) in the championship game.

"I have high expectations for Jermaine like I do for all of my players," Miramar coach Damon Cogdell said. "He's going to be a senior and he's going to be one of the guys that will be crucial to us returning where we were last year and getting over that hump.

"The way last season ended was tough on Jermaine and tough on many of the outgoing seniors that are his best friends. I know he wants to get back there and win for himself and his teammates, the ones that are here now and last year's group."

Grace is putting himself through quite a rigorous offseason schedule that he hopes will make the difference this season.

"I'm working out a lot and participating in events like this one," Grace said. "I'm also doing 7-on-7 with my team and with the South Florida Express.

"Really just staying busy with football stuff and trying to do all the little things I can to improve."

College programs are noticing Grace's work as well. He already has offers from Miami, Florida, FSU, South Florida and North Carolina, and even Texas and Texas A&M.

"I was shocked to hear about an offer from Texas and Texas A&M," Grace said. "They haven't talked to me much; they are talking to Coach Cogdell primarily."

Grace said that Penn State, Tennessee and Miami keep in touch with him the most these days. He attended Miami's junior day event and considers himself a Hurricanes fan.

"Miami was the only junior day I could get to. I was invited to a bunch of them but transportation was an issue," Grace said. "Miami is a great school for me and I grew up as a fan of the Hurricanes, but I'm taking everything in and I'm going to look at some other possibilities.

"I'm going to be taking in a lot of camps over the next few months. Probably the NFTC camp in April and Friday Night Lights will definitely be one of the camps I go to. We usually go to the Jimbo Fisher camp at FSU and the West Virginia camp as well."

While Grace's due diligence will be appreciated by the other schools recruiting him, his former teammate, Tracy Howard, is hopeful that they can reunite in Miami.

"I made a promise to Tracy that we'd go to the same school and we shook hands on it and everything," Grace said. "But what's good for him might not be the best for me and he understands that.

"I'm going to continue to let everything fall in place and I know the right school will be in front of me."