- By Jay Morrison Staff Writer
Trotwood resident Ernestine Grigsby is in Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII, and as eager as she is to attend the game, she’s most looking forward to the three-ring circus.
“I’m at my happiest when I’m with my boys, and I can’t wait to spend time with those clowns,” Griggs laughed, referring to sons Bam Bradley, Chris Wright and Nicholas Grigsby, the latter of whom is the reason for the reunion.
A linebacker for the New England Patriots, Grigsby will play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, just five months after he unexpectedly found himself unemployed and traveling the tryout circuit after the Los Angeles Rams cut him one day after telling him he had made the 53-man roster.
“They’re lucky I’m not like I used to be,” Ernestine said. “Back then I probably would have called that coach and told him off.”
She has plenty of experience with coaches after raising three professional athletes, all of whom graduated from Trotwood-Madison. Bam is a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, and Chris is with the Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA G League after previous stints with the Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks.
Nicholas, or “Freezer” as he’s known to his family, friends and teammates, signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Pittsburgh in 2016. The Rams released him on cutdown day but brought him back the following afternoon as a member of the practice squad.
The Rams promoted him to the 53-man roster in November last year, and he played in the final six games. Then he made the 53-man roster out training camp in September but was gone the next day when the team added three players released from other teams.
“He was devastated,” said his uncle J.D. Grigsby, a former University of Dayton basketball player. “He was hurt, confused. He could not conceptualize that as a young person.”
Grigsby was there to help, not with advice as a former athlete, but with lessons learned in his calling as a reverend.
“I believe in what I’m doing,” he said. “I feel like sharing it, and I gave him what I know.”
Two weeks after the Rams cut Freezer, the Baltimore Ravens signed him to the practice squad.
“I was in heaven because my sons were back together again,” Ernestine said.
In addition to younger brother Bam putting in a good word, Freezer had another ally with the Ravens in linebacker coach Don Martindale, a fellow Trotwood-Madison graduate.
But two months later, Freezer – the nickname comes from when he was 4 and would push a chair up to the refrigerator so he could open the freezer and scrape the frost out and eat it, Ernestine explained – was on the move again.
But this time it was on his own terms after the New England offered him a spot on the 53-man roster.
“I wanted him to stay with Bam, just to please myself,” Ernestine admitted. “I asked him, ‘Are you sure you want to do this? He said he was making a business decision.”
Practice squad players make $7,200 a week. When Grigsby joined the Patriots, he signed a two-year contract that will pay him $158,823 this year and $630,000 in 2018.
But Sunday will be about so much more than dollars with Ernestine attending the Super Bowl with her sons and Freezer’s 3-year-old daughter Nichole.
“She has no idea what any of this is about,” Ernestine said. “She just knows she’s going to see her daddy after he gets done playing a football game.”
In a way, Ernestine shares that perspective. Sunday will mean family more than football.
“Being there with my boys is what I’m looking forward to most,” she said. “My mom passed away in April, and being with my boys is when I’m the happiest. Sports meant I didn’t have to pay for their college. All I wanted was for them to get their degrees. I’m so proud. Playing in the Super Bowl is just an extra benefit.
“This whole episode is truly a blessing from God.”