Larry's Legends: Recovering from injury molded Ryan Grigson at Purdue

FootballPurdue BoilermakersHealthIndianapolis ColtsSt. Louis RamsMike AlstottPhiladelphia Eagles

The name immediately jumped off the page for the new Purdue athletic director.

Not long after accepting the position in the fall of 1992, Morgan Burke was at a Boilermakers football game with the names and numbers of the current team in hand. While take a glance, there was one hometown that stuck out.

"Highland, IN"

That's how Morgan Burke first heard of Ryan Grigson.

"I'd lived prior to that in Munster," said Burke, which is the city next to Highland in Northwest Indiana. "You always look at the roster and see if there are any region kids on there."

On October 10th of that season, Burke would get to learn a lot more about the offensive lineman from his neck of the woods.

It was on that sunny day at Ross-Ade Stadium that Purdue beat Minnesota 24-20 and Burke was in attendance, getting a look at the program that he would take over from George King that January.

During game, Grigson took a hit to the abdomen and was taken off the field. What seemed at first a routine injury quickly became more serious on the sideline, as doctors debated what might be going on with the lineman.

"When you see the doctors nervous, then you get nervous," said Burke of the situation involving Grigson.

When the diagnosis was inconclusive, Burke was pressed into some early duty before his job began. Not long after the hit, Burke was out of Ross-Ade Stadium and headed towards Lafayette.

"One of my first unofficial duties because I hadn't taken the job yet was to go over to the hospital," said Burke, heading toward Grigson's next destination.

There it was determined that the offensive lineman had injured his kidney on the hit to the abdomen. Thoughts of football quickly went away, with the idea of what could be putting things quickly in perspective.

"Here's this six-foot-five, 290 pound guy and we didn't know he was going to live," said Burke of Grigson.

Slowly the injury crept away from life threatening, but an over month-long hospitalization was ahead of the lineman as he tried to get through the kidney injury. Burke said he would come down from Munster to visit Grigson in the hospital, with then Purdue head coach Jim Colletto visiting on a more frequent basis.

Burke was on campus full time when Grigson began recovering in early 1993 and in that time the athletic director got an idea of what might be to come from the future executive.

"He's a blue collar guy," said Burke of Grigson as he worked his way back to health. "He's a guy whose had to work for everything he's gotten, I don't think it came easy in anything he's done.

"But he's always accepted the challenge."

That was apparent during Grigson's last two years in West Lafayette. He worked his way back into the Purdue offensive line in 1993 and was a captain on the 1994 squad.

That season he helped pave the way for future All-American Mike Alstott, who burst onto the national scene by rushing for 1,188 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards a carry.

"He always said he made Alstott everything that he was," said Burke, but it was Grigson's attitude that shined more than his blocking.

From his recovery at Purdue to his early retirement from professional football due to a back injury, the future general manager maintained a positive perspective which helped him to overcome any issue.

"He's a business-like guy but he's an upbeat guy," said Burke-and his history proves that.

Grigson took a job as a pro scout with the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders when his career with the Toronto Argonauts. He got into the NFL with the St Louis Rams as scout in 1999, the working his way up the Eagles organization to player personnel director.

His performance there brings him to Indianapolis, where Grigson will have the task of rebuilding a 2-14 Colts organization. He'll have to decide on whether to keep or retain a coach along with a future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Burke is pretty sure the attitude he'll have when he does it.

"I think in this world were faced with so much negativity, told all the things that are bad, what we can't accomplish. I think the Ryan Grigson's of the world are examples of 'I'm gonna keep my eye on the prize, I'm gonna stay focused on whats positive.'

"I'm not going to ignore the things that need fixing, but I'm going to take them one at a time."




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