It seems the better part of Darren Grainger’s football career has been spent waiting — if not for the job he coveted, a doctor’s note clearing him to play.
But when he breaks the Conway offensive huddle Friday night, the senior quarterback’s patience will have been well worth it.
As a senior, Grainger will get his first start under center for Conway as it begins the 2017 season at Georgetown.
Replacing a legend in former Tiger standout and current Appalachian State quarterback Peyton Derrick will certainly be tough. However, Grainger last year was looking at much tougher odds.
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A car accident last fall caused significant damage to the lower portion of his leg. At the time, Grainger was contributing as a wide receiver for the Tigers.
“I broke the inside of my foot, the ankle part,” he said.
Worse for Grainger, he was forced to look on as his teammates experienced the deepest playoff run for Conway in a decade, advancing to the Lower State semifinal round. The injury also cost him significant time during the basketball season.
People doubted me coming into the season, thinking I wouldn’t be the same coming off the injury. (I) just have to prove them wrong and play ball.
Conway senior quarterback Darren Grainger
Oddly, working his way back into the rotation for the Tigers’ boys hoops squad proved to be a blessing in disguise, allowing him to gradually round into form.
“It was a lot of work,” Grainger said. “I came back during basketball season, so it was a lot of running. Getting back in shape was a lot of hard work, but I pushed through it and came back.”
Still, after an injury that caused such damage to his leg, there remained some detractors.
“People doubted me coming into the season, thinking I wouldn’t be the same coming off the injury,” he said. “(I) just have to prove them wrong and play ball.”
A few of those doubting the Conway quarterback probably stepped across the aisle during a recent scrimmage, during which Grainger eluded several opposing tacklers for a big gain, displaying the game-breaking ability he had before the auto accident last fall.
Along with possessing a unique brand of athleticism, it also doesn’t hurt to have a cache of weapons at his disposal — a good share of which could find themselves playing on Saturdays as early as next year. A group of veteran coaches that have been through their share of battles only enhances his optimism and comfort in the Tigers’ offensive scheme.
“The transition (to quarterback) has been good,” Grainger said. “We have good weapons out there, so they help me out a lot. It’s definitely not a problem for me.
“My coaches, (Conway interim coach Carlton Terry) and we have a new quarterbacks coach (former Charleston Southern quarterback Kyle Copeland), they help me out a lot with my reads and all of that.”
Said Terry: “We installed things slowly so he can grasp the concepts and making the correct choices and reads. But it helps he played receiver and has chemistry with those guys. He knows their strengths and weaknesses, and that’ll certainly help him make good decisions.”
His first ride as “QB 1” at Conway also his last, expect Grainger to leave everything out on the field. After all, he’s spent much of the past year simply trying to get back on to the gridiron.
“(I just want to) enjoy the ride. This is my last year, I got to make it special,” he said.
Weight: 175 pounds