For all the recognition the UW-Whitewater defense has received during the run to Friday night’s NCAA Division III football championship game, it has been one of the unit’s lesser-known players who has made the biggest plays of the postseason.
In the Warhawks’ first four playoff games, junior cornerback Brady Grayvold has intercepted five passes. He tied a school record with three picks in Whitewater’s quarterfinal victory over Linfield (Ore.). During Saturday’s 16-15 victory at Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas), he tied another with his eighth interception of the season.
Despite leading the nation’s No. 1 defense in takeaways for much of the season, Grayvold’s name didn’t appear on any awards lists, like Warhawks linebacker Cole Klotz’s did. And Grayvold didn’t receive any first-team all-conference or all-region honors, like fellow cornerback Marcus McLin did.
Grayvold had been flying under the radar “until the last few weeks, probably,” said coach Lance Leipold, whose Warhawks (14-0) face undefeated Mount Union (Ohio) at 6 p.m. today in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Salem, Va.
“He had the three-interception game. Heck, I’m the head coach and I didn’t even realize he had three until somebody told me after the game. I thought he had two.”
A Norway, Mich., native, Grayvold enrolled at Division II Northern Michigan after graduating high school in 2010. His plan was to follow in the footsteps of his father, Brad, who was an all-conference cornerback for the Wildcats in 1987 and 1988.
However, Grayvold rarely saw the field at UNM. He appeared in only three games and recorded two tackles. In early 2012, after two years and two unsuccessful seasons, he decided he wanted something more.
“We weren’t doing what I felt we should have been doing,” he said of his time with the Wildcats. “I wanted a change of scenery, and I wanted to get out of the UP (Upper Peninsula). I came down (to Whitewater) and absolutely fell in love with it.”
That summer, Grayvold lived in Wisconsin, taking nine credits of classes and working at Fastenal — a local branch of an industrial supply chain — in order to pay for his rent and tuition.
His plan paid off. But the time and effort he put into work and school got in the way of his athletic training. In his first season with the Warhawks, Grayvold played in nine games and recorded only 23 tackles and two interceptions.
“I came down pretty out of shape,” he said. “I came in and played last year, (but) I just knew that I wasn’t really intimidating.
“I figured if I put in a full body of work in the summer and got it all right, I could have a much better year than I already had.”
After that season, Grayvold committed himself to football. He once again stayed in Whitewater, but this time spent his time training and getting himself into football shape for the 2013 season.
In 14 games this year, he racked up 58 tackles, including 3½ for loss, and leads the Warhawks in passes defensed (17) and broken up (9).
As a starter and leader og one of Division III’s most feared defenses, Grayvold’s hard work is finally reaping rewards.
“He is one of those guys you are really happy for,” Leipold said of Grayvold. “He paid the price to put himself in this position, and it has paid off for him.”