Entertaining Interlude Offers Insight Into WVU’s Will Grier
MORGANTOWN — It isn’t often that you get a chance to gaze into the soul of a high-profile athlete.
All too often they are insulated from the peering eyes of the public, surrounded by public relations hacks and team rules and, to be honest, living a different life than your normal fan. The more successful the athlete, the more private they become and, in truth, it is understandable why.
But every so often the veil is lifted and you get a moment to peek inside him.
Sometimes you are surprised. His public persona may not be what he is in private.
Then sometimes there is no surprise at all.
He is what he is, and so it was the other day with West Virginia’s Will Grier, a high-profile college football player who may well be heading for the Heisman Trophy and All-American honors and who is certainly heading toward the National Football League.
It was Tuesday, media day, and Grier was stepping to the podium to address the media, which comes with the job of being a big-time quarterback.
The reputation he had built was of a man serious about football, man who puts family above all else, a cooperative sort in a world that is becoming more combative between athlete and media, and certainly intelligent and introspective.
That was what he brought to the podium on this date, but one thing more.
In his arms was his daughter, Eloise, or Ellie, two-years-old and certainly not a shrinking violet.
The lights and the cameras didn’t deter her one bit, as Grier stood there and began answering questions, microphones being thrust toward them.
On most days, he is the star of the show but on this day the spotlight shined on his daughter, who not only stole the show but also darn near stole my digital recorder that I had laid on the podium to pick up the words of wisdom.
At that moment you could sense the feelings Grier had as a father, a family man.
And, as someone who had three children and six grandchildren myself — well, my then wife and my children and their spouses had a whole lot to do with it, too — I could sense just what was going on.
Moments after she lifted the recorder from the podium she held it to her ear, as if it were smart phone as the group closed in tighter, laughing at the sight.
“She likes the attention,” Grier quickly admitted.
He looked into her eyes and asked, “Did you take this from someone?”
It wasn’t one of those “Put that back” kind of questions, not a “Bad girl” comment and certainly he didn’t reach in and take it out of her hand.
This was just part of being Will Grier’s daughter to him.
A moment later, the recorder still in her hand, she reached for the microphone that seemingly grows out of the podium on a flexible wire-like attachment. It is round at the top, covered with a a bit of foam.
Ellie Grier reached for that with her tiny hand, grabbed it and put the top in her mouth.
“Do you think it’s a popsicle?” he said.
And she did, answering with what sounded like, “Oh, yeah.”
But she found out quickly enough that it wasn’t, the gesture standing symbolically as a lesson that it isn’t any fun to eat your words.
At this point I suggested to Grier that she seems as if she has begun prepping to become a sideline reporter.
Grier laughed, and allowed, “I don’t know what she’s going to be.”
At that point, while I had my second recording running I reached and tried to get my original one back.
“With her, it’s all or nothing,” Grier said.
Grier started to talk about the approaching hurricane and how he prayed for the safety of the people there, many of whom are friends and relatives, Grier being from North Carolina and his family being in the storm’s path, when she began to cry briefly.
After a moment, Grier looked at Eloise and asked, “Are you done?”
Apparently she was, because she stopped … and so did the press conference.
“You can give that back now,” Grier said, and she did.
And as they got ready to depart, Grier asked to her to “Wave bye-bye,” an instruction she seemed to enjoy following.
Needless to say, that night in these parts she got more air time that her Dad and you can bet, if he wins the Heisman, the video will go national.