MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –Two years after a promising career at Florida came crashing down, Will Grier is now the toast of West Virginia. He’s still not the most famous person in his family.
The junior who left Florida after being suspended for using a banned over-the-counter supplement has come through with two great performances so far along with a swagger and look that has some people calling him “Touchdown Jesus.”
But he can’t match the stardom of younger brothers Hayes and Nash, huge internet stars who are building their own brands to millions of teenagers and young adults. They’re creating a family dynamic comparable on a small scale to the Kardashians.
Grier said he has “no shot” of approaching his brothers’ popularity. “I will never catch them,” he said.
On the football field, though, there’s redemption.
Despite not playing since October 2015, Grier has completed 64 percent of his passes, has thrown eight touchdown passes and is averaging 362 passing yards through two games for West Virginia (1-1). He said he’s simply happy to win “for Mountaineer nation,” though he also gets satisfaction from seeing the successes of his teammates.
“We’re all one. We make each other better,” Grier said after a recent 56-20 win over East Carolina . “They pick me up. I pick them up.
“I can’t wait to do it again.”
And on social media, Florida fans are wincing over what might have been.
After Grier went 5-0 as a starter for the Gators as a freshman, he was suspended for one year for violating the NCAA’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He apologized at a news conference and didn’t know if he would ever play again.
Six months later he was gone, announcing his transfer to West Virginia. He spent 2016 as the scout team quarterback and West Virginia received confirmation in May that he was eligible to play at the start of the 2017 season.
Since his arrival, West Virginia’s athletic department shielded Grier from the media until after the 2017 season opener, and the questions about his past have been trumped by what he’s been doing lately: Displaying poise in the pocket and pinpoint accuracy on long passes, including some thrown into the wind or while falling off his back foot.
Coach Dana Holgorsen declared entering the season that Grier “does everything right.” And after West Virginia put up 49 points against East Carolina in the first half, offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said Grier “has a great understanding of what we want.”
Apparently it’s in his blood. His father, Chad Grier, was a backup quarterback at East Carolina in 1989 and 1990 and was Will’s head coach on several state high school championship teams in North Carolina.
Still, Will Grier is his third most popular son, his father said. It’s been that way for years.
In 2014, after being named Parade Magazine’s national player of the year, Will went with his family to New York City for the award presentation banquet. Afterward, as they were walking through Times Square, young girls starting rushing toward them. The assumption was they wanted Will’s autograph.
“They ran right past him to Nash,” Chad Grier said. “Especially back then, it was like traveling with the Beatles with Nash and Hayes.”
That love has grown even larger thanks to social media through the teens’ oft-impromptu antics on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and the now-defunct Vine.
In 2015 Nash Grier was named one of Time magazine’s most influential people on the internet, while Hayes Grier appeared as a contestant at age 15 on TV’s “Dancing With the Stars.” He now has his own internet reality series, “Top Grier.”
“It’s incredible. I’m really proud of them,” said Will Grier , who appeared in several of his brothers’ videos. “Every time I talk to them, it feels like they’re growing too fast. I love those kids and I’m very happy for them.”
Nash and Hayes now live in Los Angeles, dad coaches in South Carolina and Will is busy with his own life changes. A year ago he married Jeanne Marie O’Neil and the couple’s daughter, Eloise Marie, turns 1 in November.
Grier now is looking for those marquee wins that would help boost West Virginia on a national stage. West Virginia lost to No. 16 Virginia Tech 31-24 in its season opener and doesn’t face another ranked team until No. 9 Oklahoma State at home on Oct. 28. Next up is a home game Saturday against FCS Delaware State (0-2).
“He’s much more than a quarterback,” said West Virginia wide receiver David Sills. “He’s a straight-out football player, him making plays with his feet. He does a great job of getting us in the right play, putting the ball only where his receivers can get it. It’s exciting to see what he’s going to do this season. I see it all the time. When the lights come on, he shows up.”