It took a few years for Dillon Grondin to come into his own, but now he’s flying around the football field.
The Roughrider rookie first turned heads at a mini camp in Vero Beach, Florida, where he said it was his speed that earned him his invitation to main camp in Saskatoon.
“I was hustling to every ball. They loved my hustle … I was covering well at mini camp. I caught their eye,” he said with perhaps as much speed as he’s showing on the football field.
“If you watch the end of every play the only two people there I see every time is 76 (Grondin) and 77 (Jordan Reaves) … I’m going to find a way to get them on the field,” general manager and head coach Chris Jones said earlier in the week.
Grondin attributes that to his persistence. And he’s had to be persistent.
“I was kind of a late bloomer,” the linebacker admitted, starting his football career in grade nine at about five feet six inches tall.
But by grade 12 he’d sprouted to 6’1” and weighed 200 lbs and then it was off to junior football in Windsor. By his fourth and fifth years he was an all-star and their defensive player of the year.
Now a few days into his first CFL camp, Grondin feels like it’s clicking and he’s able to compete with amongst the pros.
“Dillon’s really been coming on the last practice or two,” agreed linebackers coach Phillip Lolley. “I’m excited about working with him. I think he’s got a very bright future if he keeps on learning and he’s picking things up very quick.”
Luckily, Grondin is a bit of a sponge, soaking up tips from the coaches and from veteran linebackers like Greg Jones.
“I’m coachable … I want to get better every day,” he said.
“I don’t take any plays off. I’m giving it 100 per cent because I know they’re watching every rep.”
Grondin may have been a late bloomer, but it looks like he’s hitting his stride at just the right time.
Darian Durant is happy with how the first week of training camp went.
“The offence is steadily progressing and I’m building the chemistry with the receivers so I feel good, mentally and physically.”
In fact, his offensive lineman are singing their quarterback’s praises. Chris Best said Durant hasn’t looked this good since 2009 and 2010 – years that the team made it to back to back Grey Cups.
Offensive lineman Xavier Fulton went even further.
“It’s better than the old Darian, I’m seeing a better Darian. He’s in excellent shape. He’s cut up, he’s moving really well, he’s making good decisions,” Fulton said.
Expect to see Durant in action at SMF Field in Saskatoon Saturday for the Green and White game. It starts at 5 p.m. with a team autograph session to follow.
Dylan Ainsworth, Justin Capicciotti, Marcus Davis, Johnnie Dixon, Jeff Knox Jr., Jordan Reaves, Xavier Walker and Marvin Golding are all day to day.