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January 31, 2012This time last year most knew Oklahoma was going to have to land one tight end in the class of 2012 with the graduation of both James Hanna and Trent Ratterree but the Sooners still seemed set with the presence of both Austin Haywood as well as Max Stevenson.
However, after Haywood quit, tried to return, and then quit again along with a career-ending injury suffered by Stevenson the Sooners need went from 'TEfcon' five to one almost immediately.
Simply put, the Sooners didn't have a single returning scholarship player at the position.
Enter North Royalton (Ohio) St. Edward three-star tight end Sam Grant, who couldn't help but notice the Sooners need for a 6-foot-6, 240-pound prospect who can block on the edge and make plays up the seam.
That reality played a large role in him surprising most recruiting prognosticators across the country and picking the Sooners over Michigan.
"You know the opportunity at the tight end position, they only have two guys on the roster, they have one freshman and one JUCO guy," he said. "They told me they need three guys at tight end to run their offense the way they are accustomed to and it's a successful programs and all of that - it made it a perfect choice for me."
However to say things simply came down to Oklahoma's numbers situation would steal credit from Bruce Kittle, who continues to prove himself as one of the better first-year recruiters in recent memory.
"Without a doubt, coach Kittle is a good guy, a good coach, and he was honest with me throughout the whole process," he said. "He always let me know where they were at with me, and when he offered. He actually sought me out and contacted me first back in February and got to know me a little bit. He is a good guy with an interesting background, a lawyer, a pastor and has worked with inmates, he has a real rich background."
The commitment to Oklahoma on Monday wasn't the first for Grant, but he says that his decision to commit early to Boston College and the subsequent choice to change from the Eagles were both done with the best of intentions.
"Back in June I committed o Boston College and when I did I made (the decision) wholeheartedly, I never thought I'd be in this situation, but with coaching changes and other things going up there, I felt uncomfortable," he said. "They are great guys up there and they are going to do real well, and talking to the Oklahoma guys they just showed that you could grow every which way."
Even more surprising about the decision to attend Oklahoma was the reality that he is close friends with current Michigan commitment and teammate Kyle Kalis as well as another Michigan commitment Tom Strobel. But his ties to the Wolverines didn't stop quite there.
"Michigan and Arkansas are great all around schools but Oklahoma is he best for me," he said. "You know (Kalis) is one of my good friends, he was always in my ear about coming to Michigan and also my tight ends coach he really helped me through the process and he is a Michigan grad.
"He was always giving me the pros and cons about Oklahoma, Arkansas, Michigan, BC, even though he is a Michigan grad he was always unbiased with all of that, with Kyle and Strobel, they are going to do great at Michigan, I just felt Oklahoma was the right place for me."
Some wondered how Grant would take to the campus environment in Norman - a concern that was only furthered by the reality he took an official visit on Jan. 6 when students had yet to return to campus from the Winter holiday break.
"Me and my mom came on my official visit. You know, I hung out with (host) Bronson Irwin. We went to the Sooners game and he was just a real nice guy," Grant recalled "Also, I got to meet Landry Jones and he was a real down to Earth good guy. Coach Kittle and coach Bob Stoops personally gave me the tour of the facilities and were with me 90-percent of both days I was there, showing me little things around the town and what the surroundings are.
"At Michigan, and some of the other (Big 10) schools, I mean they are all big programs, but I guess Oklahoma is a little bit smaller school with like 24-thousand enrolled, where Michigan and Ohio State have more like 50-thousand. It's more of a small town feel with just this big football thing, that kind of attracted me, I'm not much of a city guy or whatever you want to call it.
"You get this small town college feel (in Norman) and I liked it."
Grant, who says he is giving real consideration to majoring in petroleum engineering, said that after his official visit both Stoops and Kittle wanted to come to his home in North Royalton and have the chance to meet his father. During the visit they talked some about how Grant is a fit for the Sooners not only as a player but coming from an elite high school program like St. Edward.
"They really wanted to come in and meet my father (Tuesday, Jan. 24) with the rest of the coaching staff and talk with my mom and me," he said. "The coaches came in and talked about how they see me fitting into their offense, how coach Kittle is going to take care of us and wanted to explain all that to my parents.
"Obviously everyone wants to win and with the success they've had, you're only as good as your next game. To be able to contribute to a winning program and knowing they see me as a complete tight end who can do everything they do in their offense. That is another thing that they believed in - that I can really help them."
Now though, it's going to be on Grant to start meeting some of his future teammates.
"It'll be a totally new experience getting to know (the rest of the 2012 class). I'm not on Facebook or Twitter so I haven't talked to most of the guys, but David Smith the running back out of Chicago, he called and was texting me so I had a chance to talk with him a little bit. It was good talking to a guy who is going to be one of my future teammates."
Grant will have a National Signing Day ceremony at 1:00 p.m. at St. Edward high school, but will be signing his actual letter of intent earlier in the day.