NFL: Ex-Buckeyes savor roles with 49ers
Ted Ginn Jr., above, and former Ohio State teammate Larry Grant are special-teams contributors for the 49ers.
Compared with their fellow Buckeyes, receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and linebacker Larry Grant have minor roles on the San Francisco 49ers.
Ginn and Grant aren’t starters like Pro Bowl strong safety Donte Whitner and right guard Alex Boone. But being confined to mostly special-teams duty hasn’t lessened their satisfaction about earning a trip to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
“It’s a great accomplishment, a great experience,” Ginn said as the 49ers began practices leading up to next Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. “I’m just trying to soak it in and enjoy it. Going to the Super Bowl, that’s the highest you can ever get. Everything else leading up to this point is really nothing. You’ve got to take it in stride and roll with it and hope you get a victory.”
“Roll with it” sums up Ginn’s philosophy. Enamored of his speed, the Miami Dolphins picked Ginn with the ninth overall pick of the 2007 draft. But he caught a total of only 12 passes in his second and third seasons with the Dolphins.After catching 31 passes his first two years in San Francisco, Ginn had only two catches for 1 yard in the 2012 regular season and one reception for 3 yards in the playoffs. Most of his action has come as a kick returner.
“It is what it is,” Ginn said of his role. “You just go out and continue to play the game and fight through. As long as your team is winning and you make plays when you can, it’s exciting any way it goes.
“Everybody is happy and grateful, and I know I am.”
The last time Ginn was on the biggest stage, he returned the opening kickoff of the national championship game after the 2006 season against Florida for a touchdown. But he was injured in the celebration and sat out the rest of the Buckeyes’ shocking 41-14 loss.
Like Boone, Grant was on that Buckeyes’ team, as well as the one that lost to Louisiana State in New Orleans the next season.
Grant was drafted by the 49ers in the seventh round in 2008 and was signed from San Francisco’s practice squad by St. Louis at the end of that season. He rejoined the 49ers last year. Playing behind star linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, Grant has gotten few snaps this season.
“I can’t be disappointed because of all the accolades and all the good things the guys in front of me have been doing,” Grant said. “When I came back here last year, I knew exactly what I was getting into. I told myself and the organization that regardless of what roles you guys give me, I’m accepting it.”
For Grant, playing for the 49ers is particularly sweet. He grew up near Candlestick Park and was a child in 1994 when the 49ers were ending their glorious run of five Super Bowl titles. He would play in the street, pretending to be receiver Jerry Rice or running back Roger Craig.
“I grew up with dreams and aspirations of being a part of this team,” Grant said. “I was lucky to be able to get to hear my name called in the draft. I’m even more lucky to be back here the last two years, especially with the success and the changes that have been made.”
One of those changes was the hiring of Jim Harbaugh as coach. Harbaugh played for Michigan. Now he’s coaching four Buckeyes.
Grant said the rivalry doesn’t come up much, except during a certain week in late November.
“I really don’t give him much (mouth) until that week when we whoop their butt,” Grant said.
Grant won the grand sum of $5 in a bet with Harbaugh when Ohio State defeated Michigan this past season.
Much more will be at stake for Grant on Sunday when he plays for the biggest title at his level, one that eluded him back at the Superdome while playing for Ohio State.
“We look back at what happened in Arizona and what happened in New Orleans the last time we were there fighting for a championship,” Grant said. “Our goal is to do whatever we can to make sure we don’t feel the same way we did when we were in Arizona and New Orleans.”