He fit right in with fearsome teammates Curtis, Hendricks
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.”
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.”