If there are any black-and-blue marks on the chiseled arms of Vinny Grasso, don’t mistake them for bruises absorbed during his busy workout regimen. More than likely, they are self-inflicted, incurred by a guy who’s been pinching himself for the last few months in pursuit of achieving a lifelong football ambition.

Grasso embodies the tale of an underdog not acquainted with the definition of can’t. He’s heard it all before, from his transition as a standout multi-tasking quarterback at Donovan Catholic to a walk-on at Monmouth University tagged as a long shot in search of his niche. Tell him he’s undersized and he’ll kindly ask you go below the surface of his granite-like 5-6, 180-pound frame and measure the size of his heart. We’ll save you the hassle…it’s endless. Concerned about how Grasso will stand up going across the face of a 6-4, 265-pound middle linebacker? He’s not, suggesting they can’t hit what they can’t catch.

Vinny Grasso of Monmouth University (Karlee Sell courtesy of Monmouth Athletics)
Vinny Grasso of Monmouth University (Karlee Sell courtesy of Monmouth Athletics)

Don’t mistake the confidence for cockiness. Few are as humble as Grasso. Instead, take the time to evaluate an appreciation for technique and route execution as well as an insatiable work ethic that helped him beat the odds at every crossroad of his gridiron journey. Professional scouts certainly have, explaining why Grasso’s stock has only risen in recent weeks and put him on the radar of a number of professional teams as the National Football League Draft looms.

Before you get the wrong impression, understand Grasso harbors no delusions. Hearing his name called at any point during the NFL Draft in two weeks would be music to his ears but not a tune he anticipates. Nonetheless, if you happen to be a close friend, spare him a phone call during the proceedings, which begin on April 25 and finish two days later. He needs to keep his line of communication open just in case.

“Ever since I started playing in Pop Warner, I always had it in the back of my head to tackle the task at hand,” said Grasso. “I’m so close to obtaining a lifelong goal. I’m only going to keep working harder but the experience has been awesome.”

Grasso saw his profile take steady leaps, starting with a strong showing at the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas, a four-day event in mid-January with scouts from the NFL, Canadian Football League and the XFL in attendance. Things only progressed at Monmouth’s Pro Day in late March with Grasso drawing even more interest.

“Talking to scouts, they said I have a shot,” Grasso shared. “It motivated me even more to keep doing my thing.”

That thing includes his sharp route running, a 4.49 time in the 40 as well as a blistering 4.01 in the 20-yard shuttle that, when measured against the receivers who worked out at the NFL Combine would’ve landed him in a tie for third. Add in his strength, exhibited with 21 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, and an image of what’s making Grasso more and more attractive begins to crystalize.

Vinny Grasso
Vinny Grasso

Grasso, who has patterned his game after the likes of Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Darren Sproles, all diminutive competitors who've thrived in the NFL, shared that the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals and New York Giants have all been in contact with him with the Giants inviting him in to their facilities in East Rutherford last week to attend their private workout.

There, while catching passes from the likes of Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley and taking a tour of all the amenities, Grasso caught a glimpse of star running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Sterling Shepard heading in for an off-season workout.

“I got there at 7:30 in the morning, weighed in and they fed us breakfast in the dining hall,” shared Grasso. “We got a tour of the facility and spoke with (Giants head coach) Pat Shurmur and the receiver coaches. They were great guys. Then we worked out for about 30 to 40 minutes. During warmups, I was reflecting on those Pop Warner days and my dad telling me this is where I could be someday. It was more than a dream come true. This is now the goal. To see Barkley and Shepard putting in the extra time in the off season was only more inspiring.”

If not selected, Grasso has a good chance to be signed as a free agent after the draft and perhaps participate in a rookie camp. He would love to land a roster spot with any team anywhere willing to offer an opportunity and, while being inked as a wide receiver, where he caught 30 passes for 360 yards and three TDs as a senior last fall, would be ideal, he isn’t marketing himself as solely that. His accelerated quickness plays well as a return man or gunner for that matter on special teams while his willingness to adapt is refreshing and genuine.

“If they asked me to play defensive tackle, I’d do it,” Grasso said with the slight detection of a laugh. “My dad was a big Barry Sanders fan and always told me to act like you’ve been there in the way he handed the ball to the ref after scoring. I’ve tried to be like that my whole life...modest.”

Now, on the verge of getting where he’s wanted to be for as long as he can remember, Grasso won’t change a thing. He continues to work as hard as ever, dedicating his time to daily routines designed to enhance his chance to get where he aspires. Only, he won’t be acting like he’s been there, choosing to hustle instead to prove that he belongs.

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