BUCKHANNON -- Brandon Grayson is putting together quite a season for West Virginia Wesleyan defensive unit. The 5-10, 215-pound linebacker from Middleburg, Va. has helped lead the Bobcats to an early season 2-1 record as they prepare for a home encounter with Urbana Saturday afternoon.
Grayson leads the defense with 26 tackles, and has recovered two fumbles, one of which he returned 40 yards for a touchdown two weeks ago in a 34-0 shutout victory over visiting West Liberty. The shutout was the school's first since 1997.
"We are working well as a unit right now, and we have a lot of guys getting to the ball," Grayson said. "It is a lot of fun when you have a group working this well together."
Grayson's senior year is a cap to what has already been a stellar career. This includes 176 career tackles, including eight tackles for loss. But the athletic linebacker is hoping for a strong final act, with the Bobcats battling for Mountain East supremacy.
"You have to take it one week at a time, but big picture, we have some big team goals," Grayson said. "We would like to challenge for a league title and make the NCAA playoffs. Those are some high goals, but we feel like we have a lot of talent on our team."
Grayson began playing football back in the Loudoun Valley of Virginia youth league at the age of seven. He spent his youth career as a linebacker and running back, while also starring in baseball at each level. He became a standout linebacker at Loudoun Valley High School, and became a potential recruit.
Shepherd University, less than an hour from his home, became an early target for Grayson, but after visiting Wesleyan, his mind changed. By spring he was ready to sign as a Bobcat.
"I really loved the school from the beginning," Grayson said. "I liked the atmosphere here, but what sealed it was the five-year MBA option for me academically. I was wanting something in the Business field, and this fit my professional pursuits."
Grayson noted that he also liked the small town feel of Buckhannon. He noted that while the Purcellville area of Virginia is growing, there was still a small town vibe around his high school days at LVHS.
One last wrinkle was thrown into the recruitment. Grayson produced an epic senior baseball season...one that led the recruiters to him for that sport as well. His senior class helped lead LVHS to a Class AAA state title.
"I had always had a good glove at second base, but my offense got a lot better as I matured in high school," Grayson said. "I got my average up to .380 during that championship run. That stirred some interest in me as a baseball prospect. It certainly had me thinking, but in the end, I decided to honor my commitment to Wesleyan football."
In the beginning, the going was tough. Like many freshmen football players, there was a learning curve.
"It was a tough adjustment for me during that first camp," Grayson said. "The speed of the game is so different, and you are meeting so many new people. It took me some time, but once I got comfortable with my role, everything was fine."
Grayson worked his way into the rotation at linebacker in the fifth game of his freshmen year. With some injuries to the Bobcat defense, Grayson was inserted into the starting lineup in game eight.
He has never looked back.
Grayson ended his freshmen year with 36 tackles, sixth on the team. His total jumped to 58 his sophomore year (second on the team), and another 56 as a junior in 2016. With 26 already on the board in three games this year, he is heading for an even bigger total, and on pace to top the 200-tackle milestone.
"Brandon has been as steady of a player as I have ever coached. He brings a great deal of intelligence to the field, and has a high football IQ," head coach Del Smith said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for Brandon's approach, and his ability to excel both on the field and in the classroom. As a senior captain, our players have a leader that they have a leader that will protect the interests of the program and compete at a high level."
Always looking to tackle the next ball carrier, Grayson is already planning his post-Wesleyan life.
"I would like to be working in a major business, perhaps in Human Resources at some point, Grayson said. "If I find myself working in Higher Education or in a school system, I think it would be neat to be an Academic Advisor. There a lot of kids out there that just need some guidance, and it would be nice to help them. Either way, I see myself helping an organization or business in some sort of service or administrative capacity."
For now, the thinking man's linebacker has a job to finish as a Bobcat. He is leading his fellow seniors out of WVWC on a high note.