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USF Bulls' Grissom seeks career move to NFL

Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 10:12 AM

There is only one thing that University of South Florida defensive tackle Cory Grissom wants more than to make it in the NFL, and that's to see his mother Jackie quit that tiresome blue-collar job of hers.

As you might expect, the two goals are inextricably intertwined.

The way Grissom sees it, the sooner he can make it as a regular in the NFL, the sooner Jackie can quit her job at that packaging plant in their hometown of LaGrange, Ga.

That's why this week is so important to Grissom. With a good showing here at the Senior Bowl, Grissom could take the biggest step yet toward starting his career and ending his mother's, all at the same time.

"I told her that in a few years, she won't have to worry about working anymore, and I'm going to keep that promise," Grissom said Monday following a South team practice at Fairhope Municipal Stadium. "Failure is not an option."

Thanks to Jackie, who raised Grissom on her own, failure is also unlikely. Seeing her work 12- to 16-hours a day just to keep her family stable has left Grissom with something that almost guarantees a degree of success.

Like his quick burst off the ball and his natural hand movement, it's one of the things pro scouts tend to talk about most whenever they offer up an assessment of him.

"He's got a great motor," said Kris Kocurek, the Detroit Lions' defensive line coach, who is serving as the South squad's defensive line coach for this week's all-star game. "He works hard.

"That's one of the things that really stands out about him. That and his quick twitch, his natural balance and those quick hands. Those are some of the first things you look for (in a defensive lineman), and he's got 'em."

Scouts also tend to look for immense size in a defensive lineman, and Grissom, who tipped the scales for the scouts at 313 pounds at Monday morning's Senior Bowl weigh-in, has that, too.

The only thing he's really lacking is ideal height and some polished pass-rush skills. At 6-foot-1, Grissom is a little shorter than ideal, and his pass-rush technique is in the developmental stages.

That shouldn't hurt him all that much come draft day, though. As Kocurek pointed out, Grissom has enough natural talent to build on, and he's more than willing to learn.

"When you have a guy who has the quickness in the hands that he has, you can work with a guy like that and make them better," Kocurek said. "I mean, all these kids coming out of college need work with their (pass-rush) technique.

"And as far as his (height) goes, there are schemes in which he can work very well. Besides, it's all about making plays. If you can go out there on Sunday and make plays, there's a place for you."

Grissom didn't have any trouble making plays for the Bulls on Saturdays. As a senior this past year, he recorded 38 tackles, including seven for a loss, which is half a tackle for loss less than team leader DeDe Lattimore.

He also recorded 2.5 sacks and two pass breakups, which was enough to earn him second-team All-Big East honors as well as an invitation to the Senior Bowl, which Grissom is relishing.

"It's really an honor to be here," he said. "And it's a big opportunity. I mean, I'm really blessed to be here. It's another big game for me, and another big chance to show the scouts what I can do."

Grissom has already started to do that. As he worked out Monday, he was surrounded by hundreds of NFL scouts, coaches and general managers, which actually allowed him to kick his game into a higher gear.

"It kind of got my motor running a little more than usual," he said. "But at the same time, I tried my best to just tune them out so I could just concentrate on doing my own thing."

Jackie will no doubt appreciate that.

rcummings@tampatrib.com (813) 249-7979 Twitter: RCummingsTBO