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Grymes preparing for life off the gridiron through CFL mentorship program

He still considers himself a player but Aaron Grymes is preparing for life after football.

Grymes, 33, is participating in the CFL mentorship program. The joint venture between the league and CFL Players’ Association is in its third season and provides education about pro football off the field.

For example, Grymes and the other participants were scheduled to spend time Wednesday at TSN, the league’s broadcast partner. The program concludes Friday with Grymes and his colleagues assisting at the league’s invitational combine at the University of Waterloo.

Grymes, 33, isn’t ready to retire just yet although he’s currently without a team. The veteran defensive back was released in January by the Edmonton Elks after missing the 2022 and ’23 seasons with a knee injury but has received interest from other teams for the 2024 campaign.

“I’m getting close, I’m rehabbing my butt off, I’m running around now and it’s looking promising, which is what I get to control,” he said. “But I’m certainly ready to start talking about life after football because it’s coming.

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“Hopefully not now but whether you’re in your first or 10th year, it comes before you’re ready so you might as well start preparing.”

Also participating are offensive lineman Osaro Eromosele (free agent), defensive back Scott Hunter (Edmonton), offensive lineman Chris Kolankowski (Winnipeg Blue Bombers), punter Richie Leone (Ottawa Redblacks) and defensive lineman Jake Thomas (Winnipeg).

Grymes played eight seasons (2013-15, 2017-18, 2021-23) with Edmonton. The five-foot-11, 186-pound Seattle native helped the Elks win the 2015 Grey Cup before spending the following season with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. In 2019, he was with the B.C. Lions.

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Considering the average pro football career lasts roughly three years, Grymes has certainly defied the odds. So if his playing days are indeed over, Grymes would be at peace with his career.

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“I’d be OK with it because the game has been good to me,” he said. “I’d feel accomplished but not satisfied and that’s where the hunger to leave the game healthy comes in.

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“Also understanding that because of these 10 years, I’ve had opportunities like this mentorship to expand myself and grow off the field as well.”

Whenever Grymes’ playing career ends, he’d like to remain involved in Canadian football.

“I tell people all the time and I mean it wholeheartedly that the CFL has done a lot for me and my family,” he said. “I’ve been in this league 10 years now and counting so you think about doctors and they’re in school for like eight-to-10 years.

“I feel like a lot of us, if you make it this long you’ve got like a Masters or PhD in this game and why not use that to your advantage?”

Many former players remain involved in the CFL, mostly as coaches or in the front office. Six former players are currently head coaches while five hold down GM posts, which includes Dave Dickenson, who has both jobs with Calgary.

Numerous other former players are co-ordinators or position coaches while Hall of Fame receiver Geroy Simon is Edmonton’s assistant GM.

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A look at what Edmonton Elks fans can expect in the 2022 CFL season

“My passion is to be able to give back and help out so naturally coaching comes to mind but also football operations,” Grymes said. “I’ve got a good relationship with Geroy, I’ve got a relationship with Jeremy O’Day (Saskatchewan GM), Jason Maas (Montreal head coach) and Ed Hervey (Hamilton GM), guys who’ve been in my shoes and are now in places I could see myself being in.”

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However, just as most players must wait to become starters, Grymes acknowledges patience is the key to learning what’s involved in key football operations roles.

“Oh, it doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “I started playing football when I was eight years old and so I’ve been chasing this for 25 years now … there’s so much that goes into it.

“The process is what keeps you going, not the end result.

“I’d like to help continue to grow this game and leave it in a better place than I found it and make sure the next Aaron Grymes can enjoy a 10-year career and have the next transition available.”

For Grymes, football has been a valuable teaching tool.

“Sport in general teaches you a lot about life, commitment, work ethic, teamwork and being able to battle through adversity,” he said. “It prepares you for life more than you know when you’re playing.”

&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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