CFL star Aaron Grymes trying to make NFL dreams reality with Eagles


From the time he was about 8 years old, Aaron Grymes’ dream was to play in the NFL.
When it finally happened, it was more of a daydream.
In 2013, coming out of the University of Idaho, where he was a standout cornerback and a senior captain, Grymes went undrafted. Then he went unsigned. He had a few tryout offers but decided to go to Green Bay, where he was one of 29 players on tryouts at the Packers’ rookie camp that May.
But Grymes wasn’t offered a contract, so with a baby on the way, he swallowed his pride, looked north of the border, and put his dream on hold.
It wasn’t an easy choice.
“Very tough,” Grymes said Friday after Eagles OTAs wrapped up. “Growing up in the states, your dream is never to play in another league. It’s the NFL. So my whole college career, I feel like that’s what I worked for my whole life, and I have to go a different route.
“But I’ve been through obstacles in my life and to me, this is just another one. Go do your time up there, mature and be ready when your time comes again. That’s what I’m trying to do now.”
Grymes’ first stint in the NFL lasted just three days. But after three impressive seasons in the Canadian Football League, Grymes was signed by the Eagles on Feb. 18 – and he’s been with the team ever since.
The decision to go to Canada for the 2013 season wasn’t an easy one, but Grymes felt it was a necessary one. His wife Hannah was pregnant with his daughter and he needed to stabilize his finances. The CFL offered him a way to do that.
His daughter Zoey was born on Nov. 19, 2013 – Grymes has the date (11-19-13) tattooed on his left forearm.
While playing for the Vandals, Canada was already on Grymes’ radar. His defensive backs coach in college, Torey Hunter, played in the CFL and played with Ed Hervey, who has been the Edmonton Eskimos’ general manager since 2013 and was a head scout before then. So when Grymes didn’t stick in Green Bay, he suggested to his agent they look north. And until this offseason, Grymes hasn’t really looked back.
Grymes, now 25, joined the Eskimos and blossomed into a star. This past season, he was named a CFL All-Star and helped the Eskimos win their first Grey Cup since 2005.
Last Friday, the Eskimos held a ceremony to distribute championship rings, but Grymes wasn’t there. While he admitted he technically could have made it because the Eagles have weekends off, he elected to stay in Philly and work out. The ring – which he thinks has about 141 diamonds – is in the mail.
With all his success in Canada, Grymes could have easily stayed there. His contract was up and plenty of teams in the CFL were interested. Instead, he worked out for the Cardinals, Titans and Eagles. And when the Eagles wanted to sign him, he didn’t hesitate.
“I was getting a lot of bites from Canadian teams when free agency hit, but this was just a dream that I wanted to come true,” he said. “I went to Canada and I did what I felt like I needed to do when I was there, so I went there for this opportunity. I would be selling myself short if I just quit on it.”
The odds of Grymes’ making the roster aren’t great. He’s in a defensive back room filled with young talent and just not enough spots. But this is already much longer than his first stint in the league and he’s been impressive this time around.
One of the reasons he might look better than some of his younger counterparts is his three years as a professional in Canada. Veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins is one teammate who noticed Grymes’ jumping out on tape and thinks the pro experience is playing a role.
“I think the game doesn’t seem too fast for him,” Jenkins said. “That’s the biggest thing. It doesn’t seem like it’s moving too fast. He’s able to communicate in coverage pretty well. There’s still some new things that shock him as far as concepts, but the speed of the game doesn’t seem like it’s moving too fast.”
There are some little differences Grymes has to get used to as he makes the transition from the CFL to the NFL, but he said as a defensive back there aren’t too many. And last year, the CFL implemented the 5-yard illegal contact rule, which Grymes now thinks was a “blessing.” One rule Grymes likes is that pass interference can’t be challenged in the NFL like it is in Canada.
Looking forward to playing in the NFL might be a little overly-ambitious, but Grymes is determined to make it work. It’s been tough for Grymes to be away from his wife and daughter and being three hours ahead of them instead of one in Edmonton has made it tougher. Zoey, who will turn three in November, lives with Grymes’ wife Hannah at Idaho. Aaron and Hannah met at Idaho, where Hannah is working toward her degree in Education. Technology like FaceTime has made the thousands of miles between them more bearable – still it’s hard.
But Grymes is focused on making his dream a reality. If it doesn’t work, he can always go back to Canada.
“I think that kind of takes a little bit of the stress off, knowing that there’s more out there for me,” Grymes said. “But at the same time, it doesn’t because this is what I want to do. I want to prove that I can play here. The pressure’s on every day. Rodney McLeod told me every day is an interview. And that’s something that’s stuck with me.”

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