Vinny Grasso's path to the NFL is an unconventional one. But in the world of FCS football, his story is all too familiar.
Under-recruited and a late developer at his position, the Toms River, New Jersey, native has gone from a walk-on at Monmouth to a pro prospect that several NFL teams are interested in.
Grasso probably won't be drafted this weekend. And he doesn't expect to be. But a rookie minicamp invite is certainly a lock while his agent is working to get an undrafted free agent contract a possibility. When you look at how Grasso's football career has evolved, he's definitely beaten the odds.
Grasso played quarterback and defensive back in high school. But at 5-foot-7, he knew he'd have to make a position change to play college football. The choice was easy to become a slot receiver. A lack of film, though, made the recruitment process a challenge.
Grasso did his research and saw that Monmouth had a lot of upperclassmen in the receivers room. He walked on for the Hawks and experienced a big learning curve his freshman year under those veterans.
But after that? Grasso got more comfortable and improved his game every year.
As a sophomore in 2015, he appeared in all 11 games on special teams and backup WR duties. In 2016, he totaled nine catches for 88 yards. Then in 2017, it was 29 receptions for 315 yards. As a graduate student in 2018, Grasso caught 30 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 185 yards and another touchdown off of 17 attempts.
“I didn’t really think of the next level until this past season," Grasso told HERO Sports. "I was thinking of how the stuff I do now will equate to the offseason. Third and fourth year I was just trying to do my job to the best of my ability and helping out the team. I still did that during my fifth year, but there was a bit more of an incentive. It was, ‘hey, what can I do now that can carry over to the next level?’”
Grasso still didn't necessarily have the stats to attract a lot of pro scouts to his film. So like a lot of FCS guys have to do, he took advantage of the few opportunities he had.
It started in January at the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas. Grasso stood out to scouts, especially in the 1-on-1 drills. Then at his Pro Day, Grasso got even more interest.
His 21 bench press reps and 4.07-second 20-yard shuttle would have been in the Top 10 for WRs at the NFL Combine. And Grasso's 11.3-second 60-yard shuttle would have been the fastest time at the combine in his position group.
The Lions, Giants, Bengals, 49ers and Seahawks have been in contact with Grasso the most. He did the Giants' local day and did private workouts for scouts from the 49ers and Seahawks.
“It’s the route-running for sure and the quickness," Grasso said on what scouts like about his game. "They throw out the word twitchy. Scouts say it’s hard to find guys with a certain twitchiness. And those guys believe I have it. They also like my versatility. They like my route-running, getting in and out of cuts, my quickness and my ability to separate from DBs.”
Five years ago, Grasso was just beginning to learn how to become a successful slot receiver. Now, by weekend's end, he'll be given a shot to play with the best football players in the world.
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