MISSOULA — As a Class B football alum, Eureka native Garrett Graves knows just as well as anyone that you can be called on at any minute, to play any position on the football field.
That’s exactly what Graves has done in his career with the Montana Grizzlies, as Graves has hopped around on offense, special teams, and most recently started on defense.
Graves made the switch to safety in the spring of 2020, and so far this season, he's had to step up in place of Gavin Robertson as the starter at safety in every game for Montana since their game against Cal Poly, and has racked up 30 total tackles and a pair of pass breakups in those four games that's he gotten the starting nod.
"The defense is a lot of fun, a lot of energy, a lot of great guys that just love to play football and they play hard and they play for each other so I’m really enjoying that part," Graves, a redshirt sophomore, said. "Everyone has been accepting of me and pulling me into the fabric and letting me understand what I need to do, coaching me up when I get something wrong and keeping my head up when I do mess up.
"I've been having the next man up mentality just in case. You always have to be ready and that's something that coach (Bobby) Hauck preaches here. He wants us to have depth and so we rotate quite a bit anyways depending on who is starting, it doesn't really matter, we all kind of play so that's just something I've been trying to be ready for."
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Graves played all over the field in high school, including QB, and came to UM after leading Eureka to back-to-back Class B state football championships in 2016 and 2017 and joined the Grizzlies as a quarterback initially.
He then spent time at running back toward the end of 2018, and in 2019 made the switch to receiver and also saw a surplus of time on special teams.
"I didn't specialize at all in high school and that's helped me just be ready for all positions here," Graves said. "I just really liked playing football in high school and so for getting a grasp for doing everything allowed me to come here and play on special teams and play all of those other positions that they asked me to. I was ready, I just like being around on the field."
"Even back to our two games in the spring, you've seen the depth with our defense, we feel like we can go into that at any point, next man up mentality," UM cornerback Justin Ford added. "I think we're doing a good job as a team, secondary, and Garrett's been good, stepping up and making tackles. Good at communicating so it's just good to have that depth and be able to see him go out there and make plays."
Now, safety appears to be his permanent position going forward, and against Sac State, Graves again showcased his athleticism with his first-ever kick return which went for 41 yards.
"Garrett’s a good athlete, he’s learning the game, obviously playing a bunch of positions has accelerated really how fast he’s been able to learn the game," Hauck said. "He’s pretty good with the ball in his hands, it was great to see that big kick return last weekend."
"The coaches were great. They always kept me up to date on what I was doing and made sure I knew what was going on in the playbook and they broke everything down to my speed so I can understand it as I was coming in with no prior experience," Graves added. "Kind of same thing here, my first year on defense really is this year and (safeties) coach Shann (Schillinger) has helped bring me along with all of the knowledge that these guys have had that have been in the room for a while. Kind of treating me like a brand new freshman and getting the knowledge in my head.
"I've just had really great coaches and that's helped me adjust to my roles and positions is they've allowed me to understand what I'm supposed to be doing."
While he's seen his playing time increase again on defense, at the end of the day, Graves will do whatever is asked of him to help the team, regardless of the position.
"Honestly the biggest thing I care about in football is winning," Graves said. "Other than that, I just have fun any time I’m on the field playing. If there’s a position that I can help my team win then I’m excited to do that. I don’t really care what it is, if I’m playing left tackle or if the best position for me is just cheering on from the sidelines and getting water for guys I’ll do that but I just really love this team and I want to help us win anyway possible."GRAVES: "We’ll see, might have to put on some pounds."
So, is left tackle his next landing spot?
"We’ll see," Graves laughed. "Might have to put on some pounds."