One of the many things that NFL teams look at when evaluating draft prospects is how they handle adversity.
Every NFL player, from Patrick Mahomes to Rodrigo Blankenship, will face some sort of turmoil in their career. It is important to determine how they will handle that challenge and if they can overcome it.
For a certain tight end prospect, he has faced more adversity than most in his journey to the league and has come out on the other side every time.
This is the story of the Indianapolis Colts' Kylen Granson, the next rookie featured in Horseshoe Huddle’s Rookie Files series. When learning of his journey, you will see a kid who when met with adversity has shown that is when he’s at his best.
Overcoming Moving and Injury
Granson was born on March 27, 1998, in Austin, Tex. Growing up in Texas, he began to love football at a very early age. While his parents enrolled him in soccer as a child, he would end up tackling kids on the soccer field.
It was obvious that football was his sport. Granson began high school just outside of Dallas in Frisco but attended Marble Falls High School his sophomore year. He ended up playing on varsity and was poised to be a major part of the program.
However, Granson moved once again before his junior year and attended Austin Westlake as his stepfather David took a coaching position at the school.
Changing high schools once can be tough for any kid. Changing high schools twice in two years is a tremendous challenge. On top of that, Granson did not play very much as a junior at Westlake.
This caused great frustration for not only Granson but his mother Heather as well. He wanted to show his talents and play the sport he loved, and his mother wanted him to be happy. So, before his senior season, his stepfather made it a point to show Granson the hard work he needed to put in to be successful.
That summer Granson dedicated himself to his craft. With David’s guidance as his trainer, he put on 20 pounds of muscle in the weight room and transformed himself into a different player. He was ready to be a difference-maker for his team and maybe garner enough interest to continue playing in college.
But just a couple of weeks before the season was to begin, adversity struck again. Granson broke his leg during practice, and it was thought he may miss the entire season.
He was not going to take that as an answer. He absolutely crushed his rehab, only missing the first five games of the season. When he did return to action, he became a star for Westlake.
Granson came back to catch 39 passes for 630 yards and 10 touchdowns, leading his team to the Texas 6A state championship game. He was named second-team All-District 14-6A for his big season, and also lettered in track in the 100m, 200m, and long jump.
His determination and athletic ability had earned attention from various schools and Granson was going to have a chance to play at the next level. However, he was not done facing adversity.
Changing Positions and Changing Schools
Because of his injury and not playing much varsity in his first three years of high school, Granson was not heavily recruited and only earned a two-star ranking. He received interest from several FCS schools, including Harvard. But Granson bet on himself, signing with Division I Rice as they offered him a greyshirt.
A greyshirt is when a team offers a player enrollment on scholarship at the start of the second semester, after the upcoming season. The player then has five years to play four seasons with the ability to redshirt at some point. Granson didn’t need that.
Overcoming adversity once again, Granson impressed coaches enough to be put on scholarship as a true freshman. Playing in only eight games and switching to wide receiver, he finished second on the team in catches with 33, led the team in receiving yards with 381, and scored 2 touchdowns. It was a great start to what looked to be a promising career at Rice.
This did not turn out to be the case as Rice head coach David Bailiff was fired from the program after Granson’s sophomore year. Granson had grown very close with Bailiff and was not happy the coach that gave him his shot was no longer there. This caused him to leave the program and enroll at Austin Community College, looking for an opportunity to walk on at the University of Texas in Austin.
Bailiff knew Granson had the talent to succeed and wanted to make sure he had the right opportunity. Bailiff reached out to SMU coach Sonny Dykes on Granson’s behalf, telling Dykes about the kid with a wide receiver skillset in a tight end’s body. This led Dykes to offer Granson a spot as a walk-on for the Mustangs, and a chance for him to prove he had the talent once again.
After redshirting and sitting out the 2018 season due to transfer rules, Granson flourished at SMU. Switching positions once again to a hybrid tight end, he tallied 43 catches for 721 yards and 9 touchdowns for the Mustangs, earning second-team All-AAC as a junior.
His senior season is when Kylen Granson officially arrived. He had previously gone by the name “Kylen Skooning,” but adopted his stepfather’s last name of Granson entering his final year at SMU. He then continued his strong production as a senior with 35 catches for 536 yards and 5 touchdowns, earning first-team All-AAC.
In five years in college, Granson overcame the adversity of changing positions twice and changing programs as he made his mark at the collegiate level. He not only achieved what he set out to do but accomplished more than your normal two-star recruit does in their college career.
His performance helped earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl, where he showed off the type of athlete and consistent hands that made him so productive.
This is where he attracted the attention of the Colts’ scouting department. They imagined what a weapon like Granson could do in a Frank Reich offense, which enticed them enough to select Granson with the 127th pick in the NFL draft.
How Granson Helps the Colts
The tight end position is a high priority for the Colts. Reich likes to use the position to create mismatches against opposing defenses. Enter Granson, the athletic “F” tight end that Reich hasn’t had since Eric Ebron.
While a tad undersized for a tight end at 6’2", 242, he has great leaping ability with a 36.5” vertical, allowing Granson to win jump balls against defenders. He also possesses great acceleration, stressing linebackers and safeties in the middle of the field. Think of Granson as a more athletic Trey Burton, who the Colts had at tight end last season.
Teams questioned Granson’s hands coming out of college and whether they could be counted on. While Granson had some concentration drops on film, the Colts do not have any concerns. Colts assistant director of college scouting Matt Terpening said as much when talking about his catching ability.
“You watch the Senior Bowl practices during the week, he caught the ball great,” Terpening told the team’s website. “It was against Cincinnati and he had two or three drops. We actually asked him about it and he was really honest. He was like, I dropped one, and then later in the next drive he dropped another and I think he had three for the game. But the hands are excellent, the pro day he caught the ball clean, the Senior Bowl we were fine with his hands. It's not an issue at all.”
With experience at tight end and wide receiver, Granson can be placed all over the field to make an impact. He has lined up out wide, in the slot, in line along the line of scrimmage, and even in the backfield.
Another advantage Granson has is his football IQ. He is a very smart player that can grasp a lot of information very quickly. SMU coaches described him as being one of the smartest guys in the entire program.
The Colts have tremendous plans for Granson, using his speed and ability to get downfield to bring an explosive element to their offense. With Reich’s love for tight ends, don’t be surprised if Granson ends up making an impact for this team earlier than expected.
And don’t worry, if faced with any kind of adversity, he has proven time and again that is when it’s his time to shine.
Have thoughts on Kylen Granson's backstory? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
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