Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was the 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
LB transfer Grier quickly gained respect of teammates
Arkansas linebacker Antonio Grier is shown during a spring football practice on March 10, 2023, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — In his first post-spring practice interview session with reporters Thursday, Arkansas linebacker Antonio Grier said he was grateful seven times.
The South Florida transfer is grateful that Razorbacks defensive coordinator Travis Williams gave him a chance out of the NCAA transfer portal. And he is grateful to be at Arkansas, gearing up for another season as a piece who is expected to contribute greatly.
“Man, it has been nothing but a blessing,” Grier said of his time in Fayetteville. “I’m having fun, I’m not even going to lie to you. I’ve been having so much fun just being around the team. The team brought me in as a transfer and not as an outsider. [It is] treating me like family, to be honest.
“I’m so close to some of these guys around here. I talk to them every day and they help me out.”
Grier, who committed to play for Williams when he was defensive coordinator at Central Florida, showed up at Arkansas with a plan. He did not want to step on the toes of the team's returning linebackers.
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Grier said he simply wanted to be a part of the team, so he told rising star Chris “Pooh” Paul, Jordan Crook and others that the position group was theirs to lead. The newcomer was quickly accepted.
“I know how it is for a transfer to come in and try to take over your room,” Grier said. “I’m not coming here to do that. I’m coming here to…be part of this linebacker room, and I’ll help where I need to.”
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman and defensive end Landon Jackson have spoken highly of Grier this spring.
Jackson on Thursday first pointed to the linebacker’s leadership qualities and positive spirit. Pittman said Grier’s best asset is between his ears.
“He’s always talking,” Jackson said. “In the weight room, he’s always clapping it up, cheering us on, and he always brings a sense of joy in whatever room he walks in. He’s always smiling, always in a good mood. I’d say that’s the biggest thing, just his leadership. He’s another brother.
“He didn’t come in trying to…disrespect anybody. He just came in wanting to be a part of the brotherhood and bring some leadership. I think he’s really done that.”
Grier this spring has consistently worked with the first- and second-team defense in portions of practice open to reporters. He had 21 tackles in 4 games before he was injured (hand) last season with the Bulls, and 92 in 12 games during an all-conference campaign in 2021.
Pro Football Focus data shows he posted a tackling grade of 84.0 in 45 snaps at Florida last season. He finished with 10 tackles in the loss then added eight the following week at Louisville.
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“Smart, grown man,” Pittman said of Grier. “I mean, he has a grown-man maturity about him. He’s really come in here and done a nice job. He can run. He certainly had a good eight weeks in the weight room.
“But he’s played a lot of ball, and he’s come in and handled that situation coming in here. You know, we have a room full of young guys, and he’s handled that really well with those young guys.”
Grier was open and honest about why he landed at Arkansas. He stated the Razorbacks’ offense – led by the best quarterback-running back duo in the country, in his opinion – played a role. As did his faith.
“I went through a lot of hardships last year losing my Pops, and I asked [God] to just guide me,” Grier said. “Just guide me. I didn’t know where I was going to end up. I wanted to be another place then God opened up another door for me.
“I didn’t want to block any blessings. [Everyone] bringing me along and treating me like family, that’s probably one of the greatest things I could have asked for coming here.”
After Day 2 of spring practices, Paul said he was impressed with Grier and his ability to grasp a new scheme. He also noticed that the transfer is an active listener.
Altogether, Pittman believes Grier will be a plus this fall.
“He is a physical linebacker,” Pittman said last week. “He’s bought in to the team concept. I think the kids on the team respect him and like him. But he can run. [That] is probably his biggest attribute.”
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