INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Grant DuBose took the chances when nobody else would.
He accepted the only scholarship offer he had coming out of high school, from Division II Miles College in Alabama, less than two weeks before signing day. When the COVID-19 pandemic canceled his 2020 season, he juggled four jobs between workouts so he could pay bills. And at the urging of a friend, he left Miles in 2021 for a summer tryout with Division I Charlotte.
Now, after two strong college seasons, DuBose may be about to see the payoff — going from grocery bagger and Walmart employee to NFL draft pick in three years.
“What it taught me about life? Just the importance of hard work,” he said. “Going in, working those shifts and once I got off, finding time to put the extra work in, to go to the field and go to the gym. It taught me the process of hard work and working for the things you really want in life.”
The lanky receiver never doubted he could make it — if given the chance. Most did not.
College scouts visited Montgomery, Alabama to see local stars such as quarterback James Foster, a Texas A&M recruit, or linebacker Kevontae’ Ruggs, the younger brother of former NFL receiver Henry Ruggs and an Ole Miss recruit.
Even at Park Crossing High School, DuBose was overshadowed by higher profile teammates such as quarterback Malik Cunningham, the Louisville star, or cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt of Nebraska.
Amid so much talent, DuBose got lost.
He finished his prep career as a zero-star recruit with the lone scholarship offer coming from the Historically Black College and University located in Fairfield, Alabama. DuBose struggled to break out there, too, catching just eight passes for 104 yards and one touchdown as a backup in 2019.
Then came the COVID season and DuBose did whatever he could to survive.
“I bagged groceries, I had that job since I was 16,” he said, in addition to working at Walmart. “I worked at Hyundai Glovis, a manufacturing plant. I was responsible for basically getting the cars, loading them on the train. I also did a little Door Dash for chump change.”
But DuBose’s real goal was playing football, so between shifts, he worked out with Foster, then enrolled at Charlotte and who keep insisting DuBose join him.
When DuBose finally agreed to give the 49ers a shot, it didn’t take coaches long to see what they had in the talented 6-foot-2, 201-pound newcomer.
“You see Grant, a guy that just doesn’t take it for granted and is so grateful for the opportunity and you just look at it like the dude fights his rear end off every day because he’s so excited about being here,” then coach Will Healy said after DuBose caught four catches for 118 yards and two scores in his Division I debut, a milestone win over Duke.
Things only got better from there. DuBose caught 126 passes for 1,684 yards and 15 scores in two seasons with the 49ers, finishing second in school history in all three categories.
But after Healy was fired in October, DuBose entered the transfer portal. Then, in January, he changed his mind.
“I was a little unsure of what I wanted to do with my future,” he said at the combine. “One morning, I woke up and I felt like I was ready and I decided to bet on myself and here I am today.”
DuBose, like the other roughly 300 combine invitees, didn’t make it to Indianapolis by chance.
What he showed scouts in March was similar to what the Charlotte coaches saw in 2021.
DuBose made quick cuts and adjusted easily to pass coverage. Despite running a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, his 35-inch vertical jump and 10-foot, 5-inch broad jump tied first-round prospect Jaxon Smith-Njigba. And his 3-cone drill time, 6.89 seconds, ranked third among all receivers.
Now, DuBose eagerly awaits what might happen next weekend. The best projections list him as a third-day pick.
But DuBose has faced far greater challenges on his path to the draft and even if he has to work his way into the mix as an undrafted rookie, DuBose understands better than most what it will take to make a roster — and perhaps even become an employe of the Walton family’s newest venture, the Denver Broncos.
“Actually, I had a chance to speak with the scouts from the Broncos at the Senior Bowl and that’s where he told me the people who own the Broncos own Walmart,” DuBose said. “It’s a different (journey), different from a lot of guys at the combine. But I’m grateful for it because it’s made me who I am today.”
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