Jakeem Grant is the Big 12’s top returning receiver.
The Texas Tech star had 67 receptions, more than any other returning receiver in the league, along with 938 yards and seven touchdowns in 2014. Grant, one of the conference’s most explosive playmakers, took some time this week to chat about where the chip on his shoulder comes from, the Red Raiders’ receivers and his goals for his final season in Lubbock, Texas.
What are your main goals as a senior?
Jakeem Grant: Break the 1,000-yard barrier, go down as one of the toughest guys to play in Division 1 football and to win the Biletnikoff, become the shortest guy to win it.
How much has that (Grant is 5-foot-7, 168 pounds) played into your development? I’m sure you’ve always heard you’re too small, you’re too short
Grant: It’s created a chip on my shoulder. I go out every day to prove people wrong, even just going to the next level and have that over my head that I’m too small. I go out every day and try to show them that it doesn’t matter how big I am, I can do anything a 6-4 guy can do. I play every play like its my last.
Was there a point you realized you shouldn’t listen to people who said you couldn’t do it?
Grant: It started out my senior year of high school. I was doing things the taller guys were doing so I said, 'I don’t care what they say anymore. I know I’m a great player and nobody can tell me otherwise.' My high school coaches told me, 'It doesn’t matter what people say about you. If you think you can do it, you can do it.'
Did you get frustrated when that came up in the recruiting process?
Grant: Definitely. I looked on Rivals and it said I would be a five-star recruit if I was 6-foot. That kind of ticked me off, it’s not about my size, it’s about my playmaking ability and me as a player. I feel like I’m the most underrated player in the NCAA, because of my size.
You’re one of the top returning receivers, but people aren’t talking about you. Is that a chip on your shoulder as well?
Grant: Defintely. I have better stats than most of the guys, but I’m looked right over because of my size. If I was 6-foot, they’d look at me as one of the top receivers in the nation. But I’m going to prove them wrong and show them it doesn’t matter about size. It matters how big your heart is.
What can you do to improve in your final season?
Grant: My consistency, catching balls down the field, even blocking for my teammates. Being consistent is the key after last year. This year I’ll be more consistent than ever ... big game, big game, big game then continue to build on that.
What’s the biggest thing you learned as a key part of the offense the past few years?
Grant: Don’t let the outside world interfere with what you have going on the field. Going into this year I’m mentally tough, much better than last year.
What is that? Becoming more focused? More mature?
Grant: I’d say it’s becoming more focused and more mature. I remember having a bad day and I’d take it on the field and have a bad practice then have a bad game. That killed me a lot last year. This year I’m brushing that off and leaving that off the field.
Did you have a moment when you realized what level you have to do that to be successful?
Grant: Last year in the Baylor game. I practiced well, left everything off the field and I saw the results in the Baylor game and I loved it. I feel like if I practice like that and play like that I can have that type of game throughout the season.
Looking at your entire receiving corps, what gives you confidence you can be one of the best groups in the conference?
Grant: I think we have the best receiving corps in the nation. We have all kinds of types of guys. Devin Lauderdale as a deep threat, Dylan Cantrell can go up and get it, me as the guy to make plays underneath, Ian Sadler is our hands guy. We have all kinds of backups behind us. I feel like our receiving corps is one of the best in the nation.