An Unbridled Warrior

Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo MESPORTS SOUTH

The best athletes aren’t always the typical mold.  In fact, most of the ones that really set themselves apart are the ones you may not have heard of before they become a constant in your ear. As I am writing this I can’t help but think just how many kids from coast to coast are trying to separate themselves to make their mark and make their dreams a reality. For some kids, it’s following in a family legacy and for others its creating an opportunity to rise above their own circumstances to experience something more than the life they know.

Sure athletes have an undeniable natural physicality and athletic ability built in them. However, the game changer becomes in how one nurtures it when it comes to their work and training ethic. That is the difference when the going gets tough and the tough get going. 

The thing about it now the pressures and high demands of being a top prospect and getting the opportunity to be apart of that elite circle is not just being on top of your physical game but also being able to keep your mental game in check as well.  You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable to be able to navigate through the hell and high water that athletes are facing during these times more now than ever.

“You will know the limit of your strength when you fight for what you are afraid to lose. If you know what to be scared of, then you fight harder. Eventually, you learn how to win.” ― Mystqx

For a prospect like Grant Winter, the day to day is an uphill battle of finding ways to keep himself relevant in the eyes and minds of college coaches across the country. As if it wasn’t already hard enough for young athletes to find new ways to be seen its even more of an uphill battle trying to do it when the world you know is completely shutdown. Now it’s not just about breaking thru personal barriers but also life ones to keep that inner grit and grind.

For Winter and many athletes, this isn’t just about being deemed “elite” or having your name associated with four and five-star accolades it’s about knowing your potential to get there without a handout.  I think not just in sports but all the way around these days we all have found ourselves fighting for the dreams we want most in some form and fashion. 

The thing about the whole process of becoming an elite prospect isn’t just made up the athlete itself it takes family blood or not to make it happen.  A kid like Grant knows he’s not on the radar as a 4 or 5-star kid but that doesn’t stop him. It’s not easy by any means to keep yourself in check and push yourself on a daily. Grant will be the first one to admit his own personal struggles that stand in his way and most of the time it is more mental than physical. One of the biggest obstacles we have seen him face is trying to not let the mental fear and pressure stop him from things like training or doing those things he knows he needs to do to show his talent.

Like I have said it takes a village to make things happen. Grant and his training is no different. 

While Grant creates his daily training and takes charge of how he wants to train. It has taken the guidance of his “village” to keep things going.

Starting off with Grant’s father and stepfather. Both these two gentlemen have really been an intricate part in helping navigate this process when literally they have been shut down by a pandemic to keep Winter training and on his feet daily.

Grant’s step-father, Tom Evans, is no stranger to the demands of the gridiron. Evans a former college player, elite prep school coach at Phillip Exeter Academy, and owner of Victory Training knows that there is no time to stop training under any circumstances.

Who doesn’t know you better than the mind that trains you? Here is a little closer look from the eyes of Grants training process as seen through Evans.  

As a coach and trainer, there are many obstacles to finding ways to keep training during this time. Evans reflected that the biggest obstacles he has seen for athletes including Winter are weight rooms being closed, not having any workout partners to push, and to train with on and off the field regularly.  

But that hasn’t stopped Grant and his arsenal from converting his surroundings into a training space and finding other fellow athletes to help train him day in and day out. Even in adversity, Grant knows that to keep things alive is not training a few times a week its training 7 days a week multiple times a day and pushing the limits no matter what you face.

Every athlete has to come to grips to what their strengths and weakness are and go from there. Evans says one simple thing he tells his athletes is you can always get faster so run, run and run. One of the keys to player development in becoming an ideal college prospect Evans stresses is you can’t rest on just your laurels you have to work even harder and don’t take anything you have for granted. You have to work on the little things that put you over the edge of just simply being a prospect. Afterall a prospect is just that a prospect.

This is what has been Grants’ biggest strong suit is making something out of nothing and paying attention to details. This isn’t some kid who despite his family’s athletic pedigree at the top of elite circles being invited to all the top camps or spending a fortune on training all over the country. This is a kid and his team keeping it gritty, raw, and simple.  Not letting him be a product of his circumstances.

Evans keeps it simple with training saying that he trains Grant along with every player he coaches as if he was in their shoes and had the opportunity to be them in the upcoming season. Training them like he would train himself to make that goal happen on the field. Evans is no different even with his stepson knowing that he faces a lot of obstacles to get to where he needs and wants to be.  One of the biggest growths since altering his way of training for Grant he has seen was a 15-year-old kid squat 225. Evans said you simply don’t see a 6’3, 195 lbs kid squat that much weight because their knees just buckle and are not ready for it. But Grant has managed to do that more than once over the last few weeks. Like anything new, it’s about building on what he can do to continue to become faster, strong, and work on developing his abilities as a hybrid DE/TE combo no matter what the football forecast decided to go.

Like I said this isn’t a kid with a hired team but rather a ones who are invested what this kid can do because in some form or fashion they have walked a mile and more in Grant’s shoes in their own journey. 

When you take a look at Grant Winter now you would never believe this kid was 160 lbs back in January of 2020. Now heading into summer in just a few shorts months he’s transformed into a solid 195 LB #MaineMachine. A big part of that has been the nutrition routine of his daily training regiment.

Grant’s dad, Skip Winter, may be known for is comic book creations and more but he also is no stranger to the demands of being a college athlete. Winter while he may have spent his college athletic days on the basketball court rather than the football field he has played a vital role in creating solid nutrition planning to help his son transform. Skip you could say has taken on the role of Grant’s nutrition and training on #TeamMaineMachine. As the saying goes “Timing is everything.”  The key to fueling successful training has to be with your nutrition. If you don’t fuel your body correctly well it doesn’t matter how well your physically train in the weight room or on the field if that does not correlate with an athlete’s body chemistry. What has been the game-changer in this training process is the timing of meals both before and after daily training. The key has been to know when to fuel and feed lean muscle growth along with daily metrics for macros and overall calories. 

When I first started on this journey it seemed like a chore trying to convince Grant that eating “ red meat” was something he would thank me for later. While he’s

not quite to brisket at that good ole southern BBQ incorporating his father’s principles and be willing to add things to his daily menu have helped him transform his physical appearance to look more like one of college football top athletes.

It just goes to show you can change your circumstances and re-create a strong environment for training if you keep it simple and you keep it raw. Look Winter isn’t on some crazy training regiment and his program as good as any top recruit out there. His nutrition along with his weight training is why he has been able to build muscle and athleticism like he already was on the elite radar. Realistically, he has a long road to go but in just a few short months simple changes have translated to the field-building his speed, strength, and stamina.  Again it is all about creating a balance in a routine and training but most importantly being consistent all the way around.

You have seen just a small glimpse from the eyes of those apart of Grants’ small but humbly unbridled team. 

But what exactly does an athlete battle with to set himself apart? The biggest obstacle Grant personally has faced is coming into is own talent and abilities and the mental mindset to manage all that comes with that sort of growth. The mental stress and all that is often more difficult to deal with that the physical when you are training to be elite. Grant would tell you that even in spite of those days when he has been exhausted or just not felt the need to train he knows that failure and excuses are not an option.  

Like Kobe Bryant said, “You have to edit your behavior to accomplish the goals you have.”

There are so many uncertainties ahead, especially on this journey. That has been one of the most difficult parts for each one of us is not allowing that uncertainty and fear dictate our ability to keep fueling this dream even in dire times. It’s not easy, G as we call him will be the first to tell you we have all those moments of hardship and frustration trying to play the roles we need to. However, at the end of the day, it takes a village, a team, and a family to hold it together. We all have our part to play no matter how big or small it makes the difference between failure and success. If you want to become elite and not just a “prospect” it takes more than flashy moves it takes an unbridled and unspoken drive consistently. Battling your demons, conquering your fears, looking beyond your tiredness in order to stay alive, and realizing that you have to struggle and pay the price to further your destiny day by day.  Train your mind, body, and soul!

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Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo is a veteran SEC sports journalist and NFL beat writer. She is our Sr. Editor and columnist for MESPORTS digital. A Brown University graduate who loves good cigars, good games, and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order. She can be reached at misskentuckyus2011@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @Misskyus2011

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