Bethany College is a cozy little place where everyone seems to know everyone else.
The Division 3 private liberal arts school in Bethany, W.Va., has an enrollment of just over 1,000 students. It's a tightly-knit community in a secluded college town.
So, when you're the school's 6-foot-4, 240-pound, record-setting quarterback with a hard-to-hide Boston accent, keeping a low profile is more challenging than finding Bethany on a map.
"My coach always jokes with me that I'm like the Johnny Manziel of Bethany," said Matt Grimard, the former Dracut High standout who was the state's Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior in the fall of 2008.
Indeed, the students at Bethany know all about the football exploits of Grimard, or "Matty Football," as it were. But it's a lot bigger than that. The bruising left-handed QB, who has trimmed down to 225 pounds, has piqued the interest of NFL scouts.
At the request of NFL teams, Grimard participated in West Virginia University's pro day last month in Morgantown, about 70 miles south of Bethany.
In front of scouts from about a dozen NFL teams, Grimard performed pre-draft workout staples like the broad jump, vertical jump, 40-yard dash, shuttle runs and the famous three-cone drill. He also, of course, threw many passes, all to receivers that he had never worked with before. He completed close to 90 percent, tossing an array of routes.
With Bethany being a small D3 program, the college isn't exactly equipped with the means to host its own pro day. When NFL teams interested in seeing Grimard contacted Bethany head coach Bill Garvey about setting up a workout, WVU was the logical choice. The NFL teams called West Virginia and set everything up.
Grimard was one of just two non-D1 players at the pro day. He's also the first Bethany player to attend a pro day in the nine years that Garvey has been with the program.
"Obviously, Matt's size is the thing that jumps right off the paper," said Garvey, who took over as head coach in 2013 after seven years as offensive coordinator. "With his height and weight, you could put him in any QB room in the NFL and he would look like he belongs. Coming from a smaller level, that's huge.
"But also, it's about his production on the field. He can make every single throw -- the out, the deep corner -- all of the stuff that on film jumps out to a scout."
Garvey says most NFL teams have asked for film on Grimard to evaluate.
Moore saw it coming
That doesn't exactly surprise former Dracut head coach Jeff Moore, who coached Grimard in the Middies' Super Bowl-winning season in 2008. During Grimard's high school senior year, Moore said that he thought Grimard had "NFL potential." The comment turned some heads.
"I made a bold statement way back when, and some people laughed. But here we are years later and he participated in a pro day," said Moore, now the defensive coordinator at Framingham State University. "I've seen him on film at Bethany twice because I bumped into the Bethany linebackers coach at a clinic, and he happens to run a film company. Matt was doing the same things that he did in high school -- dominating games and breaking records. He is very physical, and the key word for him is 'potential.'"
In Grimard's senior season last fall he threw for 3,100 yards and 23 touchdowns for the 4-6 Bison. He also rushed for a team-high 489 yards and seven TDs.
Bethany has been keeping football records since 1960. Grimard holds the all-time career marks in completions, attempts, passing yards, completion percentage and offensive yards. His 51 TD passes fall one short of tying the record.
"I knew people were taking notice of me in my junior year," said Grimard. "Then in my senior year, it was more and more. After my senior season ended, it was recommended to me that I should do a pro day. But then I didn't hear too much from anyone. I tried to stay sharp and stay in shape while I waited for something to come up. Then about two weeks before the West Virginia pro day I heard that teams wanted to see me work out."
Whether Grimard will hear his name called at the upcoming NFL Draft (May 8-10), or be invited to a training camp as an undrafted player will remain to be seen. He is, at the very least, on the NFL radar.
His journey to this point has been one of redemption.
Grimard's troubled past has been well-documented, particularly in the Merrimack Valley.
In May of 2009, he was arrested for assault (charge later dropped). In April of 2010, he was arrested for burglary and received 14 months probation. The first arrest halted Grimard's original plan to attend Division 2 St. Anselm College in the fall of 2009.
In search of a fresh start, and after taking classes at Middlesex Community College, Grimard landed at Bethany in the fall of 2010.
"My first semester here I really didn't like it," said Grimard. "I was real unsure of everything. The only thing that kept me around was football. I really didn't like the whole country, middle-of-nowhere environment. The nearest gas station is six miles away. My original thought was to play here for a year and then try to transfer to a bigger school."
At first, the uncertainty manifested itself in more trouble for Grimard. In October of 2010, he was among seven Bethany students charged in connection with a brawl at an off-campus party near Waynesburg (Pa.) University. That court case was later closed without probation or further charges.
After the incident, then-head coach Tim Weaver told Grimard that if he slipped up again, his time at Bethany would be over. From that point on, it's been a steady maturation process.
"We gave him a chance," said Garvey. "He's growing as a person. It's a work in progress and he has been doing well. He is very respectful to everybody. Some of the choices he made as a young person were not great. He's trying, that's why he is majoring in social work. He wants to help kids. But he has to continue to mature."
Grimard was named to the President's List for the fall semester for achieving a perfect 4.0 grade point average. He is on target to graduate on May 17 with a GPA over 3.0.
His family now lives in Lowell, and he visits when he can. He was home last December for four days but prefers not to spend too much time in the area.
After graduation, Grimard wants to find a facility down south to train, in an effort to always stay ready for the next opportunity.
"It's a waiting game," said Grimard. "It's about staying in shape and taking the next step."
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