He fit right in with fear­some team­mates Cur­tis, Hen­dricks

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS WEEKEND - By Mike Klinga­man mike.klinga­man@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/MikeKlinga­man

At 70, Bob Grant can still break bricks with his bare hands.

“I did it a few months ago for a group of school kids,” said Grant, the for­mer Baltimore Colts line­backer, who has a black belt in karate. “Age doesn’t mat­ter. Do it once and you can al­ways do it.”

Of course, he doesn’t use the hand that bears his Su­per Bowl ring. Grant played three years for the Colts and helped them reach the ti­tle game twice — los­ing to the New York Jets in Su­per Bowl III and de­feat­ing the Dal­las Cow­boys in Su­per Bowl V. His stay was short, but the mem­o­ries are sweet.

“It was quite a ride,” said Grant, a se­cond-round draft pick from Wake For­est in 1968. He started the fol­low­ing year on a lineback­ing corps along­side All-Pro Mike “Mad Dog” Cur­tis and Hall of Famer Ted “The Mad Stork” Hen­dricks. It was a fear­some trio: Cur­tis was known as one of the game’s mean­est play­ers, Hen­dricks stood a tow­er­ing 6 feet 7, and Grant was known to tackle with a mar­tial arts gusto that he had honed in col­lege. Then, as one of the first black play­ers in the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence, he’d learned how to quiet racist ri­vals.

“Yes, there were death threats,” Grant said. “On bus trips to sta­di­ums in Alabama and Geor­gia, the three of us [blacks at Wake For­est] sat in aisle seats, away from win­dows, so no one could shoot us.”

Dur­ing games, he an­swered cheap hits and trash talk with well-placed blows.

“I’d whip their butts with­out break­ing the rules,” he said. “By the end of the game, their faces were a bloody mess.”

With the Colts, Grant starred on pass de­fense, mak­ing five in­ter­cep­tions and re­turn­ing one 27 yards for a touch­down against Joe Na­math and the Jets in 1970.

“I think the sun got in Joe’s eyes that day,” Grant said.

He hit it off with Cur­tis, who’d played at Duke, an­drecalled atimein1969when, after a Colts loss, “Mad Dog” ad­dressed the team.

“Mike wasn’t much of a talker, but he stood up at a meet­ing and said he’d kick every­one’s [butt], in­clud­ing the coaches’, if he didn’t see a stronger com­mit­ment to win­ning — and that he’d do it right there on the side­line,” Grant said. “We started play­ing much bet­ter after that.”

Hen­dricks, the other line­backer, was cut from a dif­fer­ent cloth.

“Once we went to Green Bay, where it was snow­ing,” Grant said. “Ted, who was from Florida, had never seen snow. So while we were try­ing to prac­tice, he was play­ing in the stuff and throw­ing snow­balls.”

In Grant’s last year here, the Colts won­the Su­per Bowl, de­feat­ing Dal­las, 16-13, in Miami. After­ward, the team par­tied in the Ba­hamas. Grant? Not so much. Headed to din­ner with team­mate Roy Hil­ton, he for­got to drive in the left-hand lane, Bri­tish-style, and crashed into an on­com­ing car.

“Soon as it hap­pened, Roy jumped out of the car and started run­ning,” Grant said. “No one was hurt, but I packed up and flew home the next morn­ing.”

Dealt to the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins, he re­tired in 1971 and later part­nered with for­mer Colts de­fen­sive end Bubba Smith in the con­struc­tion se­cu­rity busi­ness. Mar­ried 45 years, Grant now lives in Los An­ge­les.

Four years ago, while bat­tling cancer, he had 90 per­cent of his stom­ach re­moved.

“I still work out, but my phi­los­o­phy is to do it for 20 min­utes and not break a sweat,” he said. “If I get ex­cited and go for 25, I’ll chas­tise my­self when I get back in the car.”

In 2012, Grant’s Su­per Bowl ring was stolen from an up­scale L.A. gym.

“I took the ring off to wash my hands, turned to get a towel from my­locker and, that quick, in 20 sec­onds, some­one grabbed it,” he said. “For­tu­nately, the NFL­made­mean­other ring, which I re­ceived three months ago.”

He is fiercely de­voted to those who have played the game. In 2013, Grant co-founded the Re­tired NFLPlay­ers Congress, a cor­po­ra­tion that al­lies with busi­nesses to di­rectly fund old-timers and their wi­d­ows. A part­ner­ship with JH De­sign, which man­u­fac­tures sports ap­parel, has al­lowed Grant’s group to mail at least $1,000 to each of the 70 re­tirees who are at least 90 years old.

“We’re not beg­ging the [NFL] own­ers for money, nor wait­ing for some­one to res­cue us,” he said. “Life is about ‘do­ing for self.’ I be­lieve in that.”

BALTIMORE SUN 1970

Colts line­backer Bob Grant, right, said that if op­po­nents trash-talked or tried cheap hits, “I’d whip their butts with­out break­ing the rules. By the end of the game, their faces were a bloody mess.”

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