Janarion Grant's remarkable season at Rutgers cut short by injury

Janarion Grant's remarkable season at Rutgers cut short by injury

It’s unfortunate whenever a football player goes down with an injury, but losing a generational talent for the rest of the season is especially devastating. Just ask Rutgers.

The mood surrounding Rutgers football was somber Sunday when it was reported that Janarion Grant, the Scarlet Knights’ “Mr. Everything” on offense, would miss the remainder of his senior season due to an ankle injury sustained during Saturday’s loss to Iowa. It’s a terrible turn of events for one of the Big Ten’s top talents, as Grant had cemented his status as one of the most electrifying players in the nation. It’s also a huge loss for fans — both within the conference and around the country — who will now miss out on the simple pleasure of witnessing his all-around dominance.

After primarily returning kicks and punts in his first season at Rutgers, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Grant expanded his game as an all-purpose threat during his sophomore year and beyond. He left his mark on the Big Ten in 2015, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors as a junior with 1,583 all-purpose yards and five total touchdowns. Despite the Scarlet Knights’ 18-19 record in his first three seasons likely hindering his national exposure, the rest of the country began to take notice of the show Grant was putting on as a senior with his versatility as a wide receiver in Rutgers’ new spread offense.

How could you miss him? He blazed past defenders with regularity, making the orange tips on his dreadlocks look like afterburners on his way to the end zone. He lit up stat sheets and scoreboards in his 3.5 games as a senior, racking up 163.8 all-purpose yards per game (35.1 percent of his team’s total output) with a mix of receptions, returns and rushes. He even scored one of his five touchdowns in 2016 on a 21-yard pass to teammate Andre Patton against New Mexico. Watch the highlights right here.

Grant is also tied for the all-time NCAA record for combined (kickoff and punt) return touchdowns with eight. Think it’s crazy to crown him Devin Hester with hands? Just look at this.

You could hear the pain in Rutgers offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer’s voice when he addressed the media Monday regarding the loss of his top weapon.

“Obviously it hurts,” Mehringer said. “Not only from a schematic standpoint, that your most dynamic playmaker is out for the season. Like I’ve said, that kid was an emotional leader for our offense. He’s a phenomenal kid and a phenomenal competitor.”

In a sad twist of irony, Grant’s injury occurred Saturday on a play that was as thrilling as any he had broken off in his career. He caught a second quarter pass out of the backfield and shimmied past four Hawkeye defenders, angling toward the corner of the end zone on a 76-yard scamper. Iowa’s All-Big Ten cornerback Desmond King met Grant near the pylon and unintentionally stepped on Grant’s right ankle as they tumbled to the ground short of the goal line, ending his season and possibly his college career.

An NCAA rule states that if a player has completed more than 30 percent or more of their season, they’re disqualified for a medical redshirt that would allow an extra year of eligibility. Grant technically hasn’t crossed that threshold, since the four games he officially played in do not exceed 30 percent of the 13-game season schedule (the Big Ten Championship game is included in the calculation).

If he chooses to apply for an extra season, we may not have seen the last of Grant in a Rutgers uniform.

Much of the country will be fixated on Heisman hopefuls like Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, unaware they’ve been robbed of Janarion Grant’s brilliance. And even Rutgers must find a way to move on.

If Grant decides it’s the right move to try and return, it would be great to see Grant back in the Big Ten next season.

If not, you’ll probably be able to catch him in action on Sundays.

Alex Roux, BTN.com special contributor

About Alex Roux: A graduate of the University of Illinois, Roux covered Fighting Illini men’s basketball team for The Daily Illini and has also written for the Champaign News-Gazette and Illiniboard.com. Follow him on Twitter @aroux94.


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