In late November, former ASU tailback and touchdown machine Marion Grice suffered a lower-leg injury that forced him to miss the final three games of his collegiate career.
After being selected by the San Diego Chargers in the sixth round of last weekend’s NFL Draft, the now-healthy Grice is anxious to prove himself to the Chargers and any NFL team that may have passed on him – and he’s excited to see his Sun Devils, the defending Pac-12 South champions, do the same.
“I’m 100% recovered from the leg injury, and I believe teams may have been concerned that I came off the injury at a slow pace. I really just wanted to make sure I was ready,” said Grice, who scored a ridiculous 20 TDs in 11 games for the Sun Devils last season.
“But at the end of the day, I’m proud to be a Charger and appreciative that they still believed in me.”
Grice knows he’ll have to compete for playing time in San Diego with Ryan Mathews, who rushed for a career-high 1,255 yards for the Chargers in 2013. Grice said he and Mathews are both good at catching the ball – Grice caught 50 passes for ASU last season – but there are differences in their running styles.
“We’re around the same height (6 feet 0 inches), but Ryan is a pretty put-together dude at about 225-ish (pounds), and I’m about 210 currently,” he said. “He’s a very physical runner, and I think I’m more of a one-cut-and-go guy at this point.
“I look up to Ryan and the other vets in the backfield. I want to learn as much as I possibly can from those guys, and when the opportunities come about, I'm going to make the best of them. Helping my team win is the focus. If scoring some touchdowns in year one is a part of that, great.”
But even though he’ll be decked out in Charger blue next season, Grice still bleeds maroon and gold. He remains close to many of his ASU teammates, including quarterback Taylor Kelly, offensive lineman Jamil Douglass, wide receiver Jaelen Strong and cornerback Lloyd Carrington.
Grice said all of those guys have a chip on their shoulder from coming one game short of advancing to last season’s Rose Bowl following a blowout loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
“There will obviously be a lot of new faces with the big graduating class of last year, but they will again be very talented, and TK is set to have a huge year. There’s unfinished business and they will come out hungry,” he said. “I like our chances of repeating as Pac-12 South champs.”
The man who figures to replace Grice as the Sun Devils’ No. 1 tailback is junior and Scottsdale Saguaro High School graduate D.J. Foster, who gained nearly 450 combined rushing and receiving yards in Grice’s absence at the end of last season. Grice said the Sun Devils’ backfield is in good hands, thanks to Foster and senior Deantre Lewis, who rushed for 301 yards and a TD in 2013.
“D.J. has a ton of talent on the football field and he’s naturally a fierce competitor, so I think he’ll be great. He’s bulked up some as well since coming on to campus. He’s ready for it,” he said. “But don’t forget about Deantre Lewis. He’s very talented, as well. They will be a really good duo.”
With his Sun Devils in good hands, Grice, who was forced to watch his final collegiate games from the sidelines, is eager to begin the next chapter in his football career in San Diego.
“It really hurt that I couldn’t be out there competing with my team. I’d never really been injured in all of the years playing ball, so to have to sit out and not be able to help my team, especially down that championship stretch, was tough,” he said.
“I cannot wait to get back into playing football. Absolutely can’t wait.”