Two minutes wouldn’t pass without someone greeting Terence Grady.
Students. Faculty. Members of the track and field team. Each offered a handshake or hello to the Eastern Washington wide receiver Tuesday as he sauntered through the school’s athletic building and waited for a team meeting.
Eclectic and soft-spoken, Grady, whose nose ring matches his half-dozen earrings, acted in kind.
The 6-foot-5, 200-pound senior doesn’t consider himself the fastest, most athletic or the most sure-handed pass catcher of his bunch.
His apparent popularity on campus is derived from a welcoming demeanor, the sort of disposition that has Grady considering a potential run at political office and church pastor later in life.
“I’d say I’m a well-rounded player. There isn’t one particular thing I do that really stands out,” said Grady, whose fourth-ranked Eagles (9-2) play host to No. 13 Nicholls State on Saturday at Roos Field in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
“My goal is to use this platform that I’ve been blessed with to glorify God. I don’t do the best job at that sometimes. It can be hard, especially during my younger years at Eastern, but that’s what I want (to use football for).”
There’s a small electric keyboard in Grady’s room, one he’s using to learn to play the piano.
He’s hellbent on using his forthcoming mechanical engineering degree for a career in commercial space travel. He hopes to work for Elon Musk’s SpaceX competitor, Blue Origin.
“Did you hear about the rover that recently landed on Mars?” Grady asked Tuesday, “It was pretty cool.”
Grady also made it a point to vote in the midterm elections, and is absorbing more and more political content.
Since growing up in his great-grandparents’ home in the Seattle suburb of Kent, Grady – also a former basketball and track standout – has wanted a life of variety.
Faith and football have been his two constants. Family provided the influence.
His uncle, former Washington Huskies standout Ernie Conwell, was an All-Pro tight end with the St. Louis Rams and won a Super Bowl in 2000. He often spoke about his Christian faith.
His cousin, Eddie Williams, was a record-breaking tight end at Idaho before he was drafted in 2009. He bounced around NFL rosters for four seasons before becoming a pastor in California.
“My faith is a huge part of my life,” Grady said.
In a college career affected by injuries and adjustments, Grady has channeled that faith.
The former Kentwood High star carved out a role at EWU his true freshman season in 2014, appearing in 14 games and catching seven passes for 97 yards.
The following season, Grady earned his first career starts and had multiple games of five-plus receptions. But he was still limited, as future NFL receivers Cooper Kupp and Kendrick Bourne and All-American Shaq Hill got the lion’s share of the receptions.
When those three star receivers all returned in 2016, Grady opted to redshirt to save a year of eligibility and develop.
Early last season, when it appeared that Grady would be one of the primary EWU targets after the graduation of Kupp, Bourne and Hill, he suffered a season-derailing injury.
Grady had a career-high eight catches for 93 yards and a touchdown to open the season at Texas Tech. The next game against FCS power North Dakota State, Grady had two catches for 66 yards before breaking his clavicle in the first half.
When former EWU head coach Beau Baldwin left to become the offensive coordinator at California following the 2016 season, the Eagles’ pass-happy scheme changed to a more physical, balanced approach under head coach Aaron Best.
It’s worked, as EWU ranks second in the country in total offense (553 yards per game), spearheaded by a four-pronged running attack of shifty quarterback Eric Barriere and running backs Sam McPherson, Antoine Custer and Tamarick Pierce.
The Eagles still have success through the air (279 yards per game), but the passing rate has dropped considerably.
When Grady signed with EWU in 2014, he envisioned himself being the next in a long line of Eagles receivers with gaudy statistics.
He went on to catch passes from five starting quarterbacks in his EWU career, including Vernon Adams in 2014, Jordan West and Reilly Hennessey in 2015, and Gage Gubrud and Barriere.
But his career numbers are modest. Grady has hauled in 60 passes for 849 yards and four touchdowns.
“I definitely had higher expectations for myself,” Grady said. “I wanted to come in here and be the best. There’s been certain circumstances that have made me not play to the level I should be playing. But at the end of the day, I’m just glad we’re winning games.
“I’ve just focused on controlling what I can control, like blocking downfield for Sam, Antoine and Tamarick.”
Three of Grady’s five seasons in Cheney have resulted in a Big Sky Conference title and a playoff berth.
Of the three, he believes the 2018 edition has the most postseason promise.
“I’ve never been more confident in a team to go all the way than the team we have right now,” said Grady, an academic all-conference selection. “We’re very well-rounded on offense. The defense, for the first time since I’ve been here, I enjoy watching them. They go out and kick butt.”
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