It can happen anywhere, anytime. Pittsburgh senior wideout La Tef Grim will see something—the light of a full moon adding a warm glow to a night sky, the soft smile of a beautiful woman, the tired eyes of a homeless man—that inspires him to pull out his pen and pour his thoughts into the tattered spiral notebook he carries in his backpack. "I only write poems about things I've seen or experienced," says Grim, who last year set the single-season Big East receptions record with 75 catches. "It's my way of escaping from the world."
Grim has composed more than 100 poems, ranging in length from a simple couplet to 35 lines. He began writing them when he was 13 and residing temporarily with an aunt in Stockton, Calif. "I felt as if nobody wanted me," he says, "but instead of doing something destructive, I decided to use poetry to describe how I was feeling." Last Christmas, Grim wrote about his childhood experiences in a poem dedicated to one of his uncles, Ray Lankford, the St. Louis Cardinals outfielder, who has counseled and encouraged Grim over the years. The poem, titled Given A Vision, reads in part:
I remember being a boy with no visions and dreams
My hope was to sale dope and survive and cope....
You have given me a vision that only I can see, that is why
Now I can be me.
In the past few weeks the primary theme of Grim's work has been great expectations—a topic he's confronting on the football field as well. Grim isn't particularly big (6-feet, 190 pounds) or fast (4-51 for 40 yards), but he was one of the nation's top wide receivers last season largely because he runs meticulous routes. "He understands how to get open," says Pitt receivers coach J.D. Brookhart, "but he also does the little things, like taking a karate class to help him learn how to use his hands to get off the line quickly in bump-and-run coverage."
Grim's football career got off on the wrong foot when he was in sixth grade after his Pop Warner coach watched him repeatedly trip over his own feet and advised Grim to try a different sport. Grim outgrew his awkwardness and graduated from Franklin High in Stockton with two league MVP awards in football, one in basketball and one in track. He lacked the grades to qualify for a Division I scholarship, so in 1996 he enrolled at San Jose State, where he played intramural flag football. "That's when I realized I really wanted to be a Division I player," he says.
The next year Grim transferred to San Joaquin Delta, a junior college in Stockton, where he excelled on the field (58 receptions, first team All-America) and in the classroom (50 credits in two semesters). With his game and his grades in order, Grim received an athletic scholarship to Pitt in the summer of 1998. In his first two years as a Panther, he hauled in a total of 135 passes for 2,012 yards and 13 touchdowns. Grim had four receptions for 85 yards in Pitt's 30-7 victory over Kent on Saturday and needs 52 more catches to break the conference career record of 190. "When I'm done," says Grim, "I want to be known as the best receiver to have played in the Big East."
That certainly would be something worth writing about.