His summer was coming to a close in late July with the Sierra Vista Aztecs traveling club baseball team, and Austin Grimm was not giving football much thought as he prepared for his senior year academically at Buena High School.
“I hadn’t played football since I was 12 years old,” he said. “Actually, the last time I played, I think I was a tight end or something like that.”
Baseball was his only sport, especially for his future, or so he thought. He gave up football when he was 12 to concentrate on baseball.
In 78 at-bats in his varsity career, Grimm, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, has batted .397 with seven doubles and 16 RBIs. Grimm is most noted for his arm strength as a catcher with also a background as a right-handed pitcher.
“I can chuck the ball a long way,” Grimm said. “Keyon (Taylor), one of our receivers, told me, ‘Dude, you should try out for quarterback.’ I went out to a field here in Sierra Vista and I threw the ball around to see what I could do.
“It turned out very well.”
The next step to joining Joe Thomas’ football program at Buena was getting the approval of his father Bryan. Grimm’s concern with playing football was the increased risk of injury, but his father put his mind at ease.
“My dad loved the idea; he loves football,” Grimm said. “My dad actually talked me into it because I was still kind of iffy. Then I came out for the first practice and did somewhat decent and I was like, ‘Alright, I got this.'”
Thomas welcomed Grimm with some trepidation at first, especially with the uncertainty of having to replace a four-year starter at quarterback like Jovoni Borbon.
“We were at the point where we just wanted to find an athlete, but Austin showed he had a good arm,” said Thomas, who has a knack of discovering pleasant surprises.
After three years of Thomas prodding her to join the football team, senior girls soccer standout Kailey Peters has contributed 18 points in the Colts’ 2-0 start going 3 of 3 in field goals and 9 of 11 in extra-point attempts. She also handles kickoffs.
.@BuenaFootball goes up 13-7 over @football_combs after Austin Grimm hits his big receiver RJ Armstrong on the fade route in the endzone. Good back and forth first half action and honestly just good to be covering high school football again! #AZPreps365 @AZPreps365 pic.twitter.com/ZkRCK59qYq
— James Mello (@JamesMelloRadio) October 3, 2020
At quarterback, Thomas went from a veteran of 38 starts at the varsity level from Borbon to a senior who never took a snap in his life. That could have made things look, well, grim (or Grimm) for Thomas.
“I had to get ready in about a month and a half,” Grimm said. “I had to learn the playbook and all the coverages. It was crazy.”
Grimm remarked the coaching staff “carried me like a baby to get me ready for this whole journey.”
“A kid coming in like that, you can’t talk to him much, and you can’t give him too much,” Thomas said. “I used to talk with Jovoni all of the time. I talked to Austin less for a reason. He’s a smart kid. He picks things up very well.
“He’s dissecting film now and letting me know this, that and the other.”
Grimm has developed the greatest intangible for a quarterback — the trust of his teammates.
He completed touchdown passes of 70 and 85 yards in Buena’s first two games, in which the Colts won convincingly at San Tan Valley Combs and Paradise Valley. He is completing 72 percent of his passes (18 of 25) for 446 yards with six touchdowns and one interception.
The Colts are scheduled to play tomorrow at Salpointe, which beat Casa Grande on Oct. 2 in the opener. The Lancers have been sidelined for the last two weeks because a player was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Playing the traditionally strong Lancer program has Grimm “amped up for the game,” he said.
“I’m so ready to go out and play. I didn’t know if I was going to enjoy football very much. Man, I love it. It’s like I can’t wait to practice the next day as soon as we leave. I’m looking forward to the next practice already.”
The talent around him has helped with his excitement for the game.
Four fellow seniors have college scholarship offers — tackles Dominic Avant and Anthony Hodges and running backs Tory Walters and Isaac Benoit. Four juniors are emerging as prospects — Taylor and fellow receiver R.J. Armstrong, tight end William Stemler and running back Jelani Brown.
Brown is Buena’s leading rusher with 15 carries for 156 yards with two touchdowns. Armstrong is 6-foot-3 athletic, a big target with reliable hands for Grimm. He has four receptions — three of them resulting in touchdowns — for 121 yards.
Taylor is one of the fastest players in the state who has 10 catches for 241 yards with two touchdowns.
Stemler, at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, is also one of Buena’s top defenders off the perimeter.
“Everybody on our line came back from last year,” Thomas said. “We lost Jovoni and we lost our big tight end (Jesse Avina), but we’ve had guys step up.
“We still have a lot of dogs.”
Buena’s offensive line also includes junior standouts Jadon Stewart and Jon Parsons and sophomore Toafia Fruen as well as seniors Jayden Gazard and Isaiah Locklear in addition to Avant and Hodges.
“I think the battle up front will be the difference against Salpointe,” Thomas said. “Whose line is going to kick that butt? Basically, who ever has the best line Friday night is going to win.”
If Grimm has time to scramble and have enough time to find Taylor, Armstrong and Stemler, it will make the running back trio of Walters, Benoit and Brown that much more dangerous.
Grimm will be the focal point of the Buena’s offense, but he won’t be the most visible quarterback on the field. Salpointe’s Treyson Bourguet, a junior, has already committed to Arizona.
Sharing the same stage as Bourguet will not be as daunting as it might have seemed in early August when Grimm became a quarterback for the first time.
“That first week I was not up to par; I admit I was not where I needed to be,” Grimm said. “But my teammates and my coaches supported me from the start. It’s funny. Playing quarterback has just took my whole life and flipped it upside down.
“It went from baseball, baseball, baseball to football and baseball at the same time. You have to mentally prepare for the next day because you never know what’s gonna happen. Joining this football team is the best decision I’ve made.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.