Arizona's Samajie Grant envisions serving his country - Tucson News Now

Arizona's Samajie Grant envisions serving his country

Samajie Grant has nine career touchdown receptions for Arizona. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics) Samajie Grant has nine career touchdown receptions for Arizona. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

University of Arizona receiver Samajie Grant is going to be a four-year starter, a senior who has 123 career catches.

He hasn't been an all-star, but he's been a productive part of coach Rich Rodriguez's offense. He likely will be one of the leaders on the 2016 Wildcats. But as he prepares for his final go-round in cardinal and navy, he's self-aware enough to know this might be his last go-around in football, period.

Grant is 5-foot-9, and while vertically challenged receivers can make it in the NFL, it's a league placing a greater priority of size and length at wideout.

"I definitely have NFL aspirations," Grant said Wednesday as the Wildcats reported to fall camp. "But since I've been a kid, I've never really looked at playing football as just a way to go to the NFL. I'm always played it because I love it."

Besides, he has a backup plan to go from offense to a form of defense.

As in defending the country.

"I've always wanted to go into the Army," said Grant, adding he's not much into any particular political flavor. "I wanted to go to the Army before I came here. ... I definitely want to do that."

Even as a kid, he said, he had Army ambitions, playing soldier with toy guns, before he ever dreamed of playing in the NFL.

"Even when I was little, my dad used to work me and my brother 24/7," Grant said. "I always had that work ethic. And I always liked physical things."

As a college player, Grant has been a football hero of sorts, but the dedication and sacrifice to his team isn't his highest calling.

"I feel like the people in the Army, they're the heroes," he said. "I look up to them more than I look up to my favorite NFL football player. That's why I've always liked to do that."

In the meantime, there is the matter of the 2016 season.

Grant caught 47 passes as a freshman, 45 for a career-high 718 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore, and 31 for 301 yards last season, limited at various points by a knee injury, a concussion early against Arizona State and a season-opening suspension with two teammates for a violation of team rules.

"It didn't go the way I planned, but I don't think it was a bad season," he said of 2015, when Arizona finished with a 7-6 record after a New Mexico Bowl victory over New Mexico.

"It's a team thing. I couldn't do good if we didn't do good. I'm not mad, because it is kind of my fault because I was a junior, a leader, so I should have been more vocal. We all should have talked and we should have played as a team. Everybody wanted to be individuals and make themselves look good."

Grant and fellow senior Nate Phillips are expected to be the starting slot receivers, with senior Trey Griffey and junior Cam Denson, converting back to his natural position after playing cornerback for the past two seasons, as the outside receivers.

In the past, Grant might have deferred to his elders in terms of speaking up, but now he is that elder.

"This is my last chance to show people what I can do, and I'm actually able to be a leader and be more vocal this year and be able to speak," he said. "That definitely makes it more exciting going into this season."

He was recently on Instagram when he came across comments about how Arizona might struggle this season. The Cats were picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 South in a poll of the league media. Which is where they were picked in 2014, when they ended up winning the division.

"Everybody who is supposed to be so diehard Arizona fans were like, 'I don't think I will watch a game this season. I'm disgusted,'" Grant said.

"That doesn't make me feel good that they're saying it, but it does give me a huge chip on my shoulder. For everybody to not think anything of us, that is what we like. That is exactly what happened my sophomore year."

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