On Wednesday afternoon, as he ran through drills at LSU pro day, Cyril Grayson had met with one NFL team and last played in a football game in 2011.
Two days later, he signed an NFL contract with the Seattle Seahawks.
“I was like, ‘This is unreal,’” Grayson said Monday after the team announced its signing of the former LSU track star and Rummel standout. “I don’t want to get too excited. I know there’s still a lot of work to do. I’m super pumped, but I’m just not outwardly with it. I’ve been keeping it on the DL.”
Grayson inked a three-year rookie deal with the Seahawks on Friday night during a visit to the team’s facilities in Seattle. The track star-turned-NFL wideout kept it hush, from everyone aside from his family, for more than two days before the team released the news Monday afternoon.
Grayson, a Kenner native and four-time NCAA track champion, was eligible to sign immediately and skip the draft because he's a fifth-year senior and did not play football.
Grayson roared to impressive numbers during the school’s pro day last Wednesday, mostly notably running the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds. Of the 18 participants at pro day, he was the only one who did not play football for the Tigers — a dream he never realized because of a quirky NCAA rule and scholarship limitations.
Turns out, he didn’t need to shine in Tiger Stadium to realize a dream of his. That pro day performance was more than enough.
“I guess I showed out pretty good,” Grayson laughed Monday.
Dennis Johnson didn’t see it coming — the biggest break of his young career.
The 5-9, 180-poudner raced to a 40 time that would have made him the third-fastest receiver at the NFL combine last month. He put up the fastest 60-yard shuttle time, too, and he impressed scouts during individual receiver workouts.
The Seahawks had booked Grayson a flight to Seattle before he had even left pro day.
“By the time I made it to my apartment,” Grayson said, “the team had sent my travel itinerary through email.”
Oh what a day. And it only got better. That’s just one of a handful of crazy happenings that transpired over a wild 72-hour window that took this little-known track standout to realize his dream.
In a phone call with The Advocate on Monday, he took us through it step by step:
- Grayson met with Seattle senior personnel executive Ed Dodds the night before pro day. A phone call from Dodds earlier in the day led to the dinner date at Baton Rouge’s Roux 61 restaurant. Grayson and several former LSU football players, including tight end DeSean Smith and defensive back Dwayne Thomas, were present at the dinner. “I called my brother and I was like, ‘I have a dinner date with Seattle,’” Grayson said. “I need a ride over there. He had a project to do. So I called an Uber.”
- Grayson performs so well at pro day that Dodds immediately approaches after he completes his individual drills. "He said, ‘Don’t make any plans for tomorrow. We’re going to fly you out.’"
- Grayson arrives to his apartment after pro day, showers and then attends Wednesday night mass. “My dad is a pastor. I got to go to church,” he said. Well before he entered the church, Seattle officials had booked his Thursday night flight.
- He arrived in Seattle at 8 p.m. Thursday. Before leaving Baton Rouge, he turned to a friend, “This is unreal. I didn’t think it would happen that fast. I knew I would open some eyes at pro day, but this?”
- Grayson undergoes a physical at the Seattle facility. He also gets X-rays on both knees, an elbow and a wrist. He then met several Seattle officials and team members. They knew everything about it. “They had done their homework,” Grayson said.
- Grayson passed his physical and the X-rays returned negative for any damage. He knew then that the Seahawks would likely make an offer that night. There was only one problem: He did not have an agent. “Called my dad. Made a decision. ‘We’re going to go with this guy,’” Grayson said. “I didn’t want to negotiate anything myself. I went to a guy I trust.” He hired Donald Jelani Roy, a New York-based agent.
- Seattle offered him a standard three-year rookie deal, Grayson said, with no guaranteed money. Standard rookie deals start in the $500,000 range. His newly hired agent called around to a few other teams. “They said they were going to offer the same thing,” Grayson said. “The Seahawks had the best opportunity for me to compete for a job. They showed a lot of love and it felt like home.” At 7:06 p.m. Friday, Grayson signed the deal, announcing it in a teleconference with his sister and parents.
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Grayson is back in Louisiana now, having returned on a flight Saturday morning. He was driving from Baton Rouge to New Orleans on Monday afternoon when a reporter called.
“They must have just announced it because everybody calling me now,” Grayson said. “I’m going to have to put my phone on Do Not Disturb.”
Grayson moves to Seattle April 17. He’ll begin getting paid that day, too. He’ll work out at the Seahawks facilities while finishing projects at LSU. He’s still in school, after all, with internships to complete.
“I’ll fly back in for graduation,” Grayson said. “I’ll send my (final) papers in through the mail or email.”
Grayson was a lightly recruited as a defensive back out of Rummel, he said. He attended a few camps as a junior but dedicated himself to track at the college level. He was a member of two NCAA Indoor champion relay teams in 2014 and 2016 and back-to-back NCAA Outdoor champion relay teams in 2015 and 2016. He ran on four of the 10-fastest outdoor mile relay teams in school history and landed on seven All-American squads.
He hoped to be a two-sport star in Baton Rouge. He attempted twice to join the football team. An NCAA rule prevented him to join the squad as a freshman.
Those who sign scholarships to play “minor sports” (golf, track, etc.) cannot move up to also play major sports (football, baseball, etc.) until their junior years, Grayson said. Over the summer after his track career, Grayson attempted to again join the football team as part of the 2016 squad.
He was told LSU had no scholarships for him, as the Tigers had used all 85 of their allotted scholarships.
“I had thought about transferring so I could play (football), but once I got to LSU, I loved the people, the fans and the atmosphere,” he said. “I couldn’t see myself leaving it. I stuck it out and trusted whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I didn’t give up on my dream. I just went after it.”