— A few of the skull-cracking, blinding-fast hits Virginia Tech's Cody Grimm delivered last Thursday night against Maryland rank high on his personal favorite tackles list, and rightfully so. After all, there was highlight-reel material in that game.
Yet, none of those hits registered as the personal favorite of his career. Grimm, a 5-foot-11, 207-pound junior weak-side linebacker from Fairfax, has plenty of hits to choose from. He already has a thick catalog of tackles and blocks for Tech (6-3 overall, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) that have caused Hokie faithful to coo.
"I don't think (offensive players) underestimate me as a football player," said Grimm, who will help lead Tech tonight at Miami (6-3, 3-2) in a critical ACC Coastal Division game. "Sometimes I think running backs think they can run me over and stuff, but it doesn't seem to happen that much."
Grimm, the son of former Washington Redskins offensive lineman Russ Grimm, is proof that it's not always the biggest guy that packs the biggest wallop. His favorite hit came last season in Tech's 24-21 loss to Kansas in the Orange Bowl.
Tech hadn't gotten much pressure on Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing all game long until Grimm came through the line of scrimmage early in the fourth quarter. Grimm got to the elusive Reesing at full speed and planted him for no gain.
"It was my first time playing in a big spot like that," said Grimm, who came to Tech as a walk-on and was awarded a scholarship after the Orange Bowl.
He has come up huge in a lot of spots this season. Though he has started only one game, he's fourth on the team in tackles with 40. He's also second with five sacks and third with 81/2 tackles for loss. Those are huge numbers for a guy who made his biggest impact on special teams prior to this season.
In Tech's 23-13 win against Maryland, he picked a rare double award as the team's defensive and special-teams player of the game. He led the team with seven tackles, including a sack of Chris Turner for an 11-yard loss that knocked Maryland out of field-goal range in the third quarter.
Grimm also worked his way into the backfield in the second quarter to bring down speedy wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 10-yard loss on a reverse. In the fourth quarter, Grimm had about a 15-yard head start before he crushed Torrey Smith with a huge tackle on a kickoff return that caused the Lane Stadium crowd to let out an "oooh."
Jim Cavanaugh, Tech's coach for strong safeties and weak-side linebackers, said he has been putting Grimm and starter Cam Martin into games for two defensive series at a time (two for Grimm, two for Martin). Martin has struggled all season with a lingering knee injury, and Grimm has taken advantage of the extra playing time.
"(Grimm) learns football fairly quickly, but a blackboard and a field are two different things," Cavanaugh said. "There's a lot of guys that spit out all that stuff on a blackboard, but he translates the blackboard to the field very easily. He sees things. When he makes mistakes, which he does, he's a quick learner. He doesn't usually make the same mistake twice."
Grimm has been exposed to football his entire life. When his dad became an assistant coach for the Redskins, Cody remembers being a little kid messing around in his dad's meeting room, surrounded by NFL players.
"I really didn't know what they were talking about," Grimm said.
Grimm, whose brother, Chad, also played football as a walk-on at Tech, has forged a lifelong friendship with fellow Hokies linebacker Brett Warren. Warren's father, Don, also played for the Washington Redskins, so Cody and Brett basically grew up together.
Brett Warren is probably the least surprised by Grimm's aggressive play. Warren has seen the same kind of intensity from Grimm since youth-league ball.
"He was always killing people ever since he was little," said Warren, who added that several players have started calling Grimm by the nickname "Sackmaster" lately.
All that from a guy who by all rights should've been an offensive lineman, if only the genetic lottery would've gone his way and he'd wound up with his dad's broad shoulders and tree-trunk legs. Of course, Grimm isn't crying about it. He likes the way it has turned out.
"I wish I was 6-3 sometimes," said Grimm, whose only scholarship offer was from William and Mary. "It'd be nice, but then again, I'd probably rather be playing linebacker than offensive line. I don't really care. I'm just happy I'm healthy and stuff, really."
Tonight's game WHO: Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2 ACC) at Miami (6-3, 3-2).WHEN: 7:45.WHERE: Dolphin Stadium.TV: ESPN.On Page D4 Preview of tonight's game. CNU fullback Jake Preli often gets sick before games. On Campus notebook: Coach Holmes wants more than a 6-5 record for HU.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times