DAVIE — It was, by his own definition, a great play. It also was his first NFL touchdown. Against a Super Bowl hero.
But please, Jakeem Grant asks, stop hitting him up with this “good game” stuff. The 25-yard touchdown pass he caught over cornerback Malcolm Butler of the Patriots was huge in the career of Grant, but it’s that other one that got away — the would-be 55-yard touchdown just out of his grasp with 12 minutes left — that continues to eat at Grant days after the fact.
“I was definitely hurt that I didn’t even come up with that deep ball because it would have made a big momentum swing,” he said. “It would have put us up, a two-score game. Just because I got that one touchdown, I was hungry for another one, and I guess I was just overexcited or whatever it was and I didn’t come up with it. I dropped it and so that ate at me the whole — even after the game, that still ate at me.
“A lot of people texted me, ‘Good game, good game.’ I respond back, ‘Thank you and it wasn’t a good game to me.’ ”
It’s equal parts sad and commendable to hear those words. If you’re a Dolphins fan, you know why. Grant arrived last year as a sixth-round pick, a 5-foot-7 curiosity with sprinter’s speed. The kind of guy you could easily root for … until his rookie season ended with zero catches for zero yards.
His return stats were decent, but on a team this deep at wide receiver, there was a question of whether there would be a place for Grant again this year.
Fast-forward to Monday night, with the Dolphins up 13-10 in the third quarter, when Jay Cutler saw Grant alone on the outside against Butler, who had at least 4 inches on him. Not only did Grant make the play, he went over Butler to do it.
“It’s kind of what we all have been looking forward to,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said.
It was the kind of play that builds confidence in a young guy.
“Malcolm’s a great corner, don’t get me wrong,” Grant said. “I just made a great play. I used my ability, which people don’t know, being a short guy, I can jump. I can dunk a basketball.”
There’s something else Grant wants people to know. The message from that play was, “Just telling people I’m a receiver before I’m a return specialist. It was basically going out there and showing people I can make plays like that. I doesn’t matter how big I am. You would expect that catch from a taller receiver. So me doing that, it showed people that size don’t matter, as I’ve been saying since college.”
The touchdown-that-wasn’t came on a bomb in which he’d sped behind the secondary and surely would have scored if only the ball didn’t skip off his fingertips.
“We were actually teasing him,” Christensen said. “I told him, ‘Probably 15 million people had gone to bed on the East Coast by that time, so not everyone saw it.’ ” Still, Christensen added, “He would’ve loved to get that last one. That would’ve been neat for the kid. He’s one of my personal favorites.”
Grant also made a 17-yard catch to set up a field goal and lined up at running back, part of coach Adam Gase’s mad scientist work to keep New England off balance. While it’s great for the Dolphins to be able to have so many versatile players that they can essentially change personnel without making substitutions, Grant warned that executing it “is not as easy as playing Madden.” Take a situation in which the Dolphins go five wide. If the defense blitzes, things could get ugly.
All that shifting brought Grant back to his high school days when he played everywhere but on the line (go figure). He primarily was a running back his first two years. Then one day his coach said Grant was moving to receiver.
“I’m like, ‘Wait! What?’ ”
Took about a minute for Grant to warm up to the idea.
“Ever since then, it was history,” he said. “I loved it.”