Jalen Grant has watched the YouTube videos. He’s seen how hyped-up Ross-Ade Stadium can be on Saturdays in the fall.
“I’m so excited,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. Just getting to experience that on Saturdays is something I’m looking forward to. Can’t wait.”
Moving from his former home at Bowling Green in the MAC to Purdue in the Big Ten is a big step up in many ways. Capacity of BGSU’s Doyt Perry Stadium: 33,527. Capacity of Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium: 57,236.
Soon enough, Grant will get his chance to experience a Big Ten game day. And, who knows? Maybe the fifth-year senior transfer will be in the starting lineup at a guard spot when Purdue kicks off the 2023 season vs. Fresno State on Sept. 2 in Ross-Ade Stadium.
Grant is doing his best to impress during spring ball. The 6-3, 285-pound Chicago product started 27 games at Bowling Green, where he arrived in 2019 and redshirted.
“I just feel like as long as I keep taking steps in my development, everything should be fine,” said Grant. “I feel like every time I go out there on the football field, I have confidence in me that I can go out there and play with anybody.”
That confidence is fueled by experience. In addition to that confidence and experience, Grant is versatile. Along with guard, he’s able to play center, too, a position usually occupied by Gus Hartwig. But Hartwig, an anchor who has 27 career starts, is out this spring recovering from knee surgery.
Grant has been getting a lot of work snapping this spring. The other centers are redshirt junior Josh Kaltenberger and redshirt freshman Malachi Preciado. Kaltenberger started the final three games of 2022 after Hartwig was injured. Preciado is a promising youngster. Grant is finding his way at his new home.
“I’m a little older,” said Grant. “I just came in. I’m really feeling the guys out. I got a lot of friends on the o-line. We got a big offensive line room. They brought me in and treated me like family, so far. So, I’m really loving it and loving the people here at Purdue. I’m happy where I’m at.”
Why Purdue for Grant?
“It is close to home,” he said. “When I was talking to the coaching staff here, it felt like a great fit for me. And if I want to take the next step in my football development, I felt like Purdue was the best place for me to go and the best fit for me.”
The Boilermaker front has a chance to be solid, but it has suffered some key attrition. Guard Spencer Holstege quickly transferred to UCLA in the offseason. Last week, fellow guard Sione Finau entered the portal. Now, Purdue’s top options at guard are Marcus Mbow and Grant, with Kaltenberger also working at guard in the spring.
“Jalen’s come in, playing next to him has been great,” said sixth-year senior offensive tackle Eric Miller. “He’s a guy who’s played a lot of football, played at a high level. He’s incredibly fast, agile.”
The unit will welcome Indiana Wesleyan transfer Ben Farrell, an interior lineman, after the second semester. And redshirt junior Jared Bycznski and redshirt sophomore Zach Richards are veteran options at guard for a unit that already is on it second line coach after Matt Mattox left for personal reasons prior to spring ball and Marcus Johnson was hired from Missouri.
Grant has gone with the flow. He’s adaptable. And resilient. Yes, he had to settle for going to a MAC school coming out of Mount Carmel High–Purdue didn’t recruit him–but he’s reached the pinnacle of the sport. Will Grant miss the one thing the MAC is perhaps known for the most: MACtion games on weeknights?
“Honestly, I love my guys at Bowling Green,” said Grant. “But playing on the weekdays is something different because you had class. You got a game on Wednesday and it was kind of crazy. But we made it through that.”