- Johnny Curren, WeAreSC, Reporter
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It wasn’t necessarily the bowl game that he envisioned USC landing in at the beginning of the 2013 season, but when Xavier Grimble found out that he and his teammates would be playing in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21 against Fresno State, the 6-foot-5 tight end had plenty to be happy about.
Having made a name for himself as a star Class of 2010 performer at Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, Grimble will have the unique opportunity to play in front of a host of friends and family when he takes the field in a familiar venue in Sam Boyd Stadium, where he last played as high school senior when he helped his team win the 2009 4A state championship game.
“A couple people have hit me up already, asking for tickets, of course,” said Grimble, who has 23 receptions for 248 yards and two touchdowns this season for the 9-4 Trojans. “Obviously, it’s always been a dream of mine to play in front of family, friends and in my hometown, so I’m happy to be able to go back. I’m not happy with the season, but I’m happy with the bowl game being in Vegas. It’s probably the best thing that could happen to me outside of going to the national championship.”
Though he has the option of leaving for the NFL following USC’s matchup with the Bulldogs, Grimble said his homecoming isn’t likely to be the last time he dons a Trojans uniform. With his redshirt junior campaign stymied to a certain extent by injuries, as well as the head coaching carousel that has seen the Trojans go from Lane Kiffin to Ed Orgeron to Clay Helton – who will ultimately give way to the newly hired Steve Sarkisian – Grimble believes he has more to prove.
“It’s more of a personal decision for me,” Grimble said. “I feel like that with everything that happened this season, I think it would be best for me to stay in school, so that’s probably what I’m going to be doing this year.”
Of course, Sarkisian’s reputation as the engineer of an offensive attack that is considered tight end-friendly certainly can’t hurt matters. Current Huskies junior Austin Seferian-Jenkins set school career records for tight ends in receptions (143), yards (1,801) and touchdowns (20) under Sarkisian, something not lost on Grimble, who is eager to sit down with the new coach to discuss his future plans.
“Sark recruited me out of high school, and I love what he did over there with Washington’s tight ends,” Grimble said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he can bring with his offense … seeing how he can utilize us. It’s going to be an exciting new year.”
But before that, the Trojans have a bowl game coming up, with Helton in charge for the first time.
“I think he does a great job of motivating us and utilizing our skills well, and I have total confidence in him for this game,” Grimble said of Helton, who played a big role in recruiting him out of high school. “I know he’s going to do everything he can to make sure that we’re out there and ready to go, and fired up to have a really good day.”
And while the Trojans' campaign has been filled with more twists and turns than anyone could have imagined, Grimble said a bowl-game victory would serve as a storybook ending for a group of players who have refused to give up this season.
“It would be wonderful,” Grimble said. “To come out of this season with 10 wins with a coaching change, the sanctions and just everything we’ve been up against, it would be amazing. I can’t imagine too many programs that could go through what we’ve been through and still be standing and fighting. And that’s what we’re all about, fighting on.”