Naturally, Virginia Tech’s introduction last week of three new football staff members centered on football philosophy, background and impressions of Hokies personnel.
Words and phrases such as “toughness” and “nickel packages” and “mechanics” were common.
But in our limited time with offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and receivers coach Aaron Moorehead, I was able to ask Grimes about a touching segment of his personal life.
Grimes and his wife, Sheri, are blessed with three biological children, two sons and a daughter. But in 2010, during Grimes’ tenure as Auburn’s line coach, the couple welcomed a fourth child into their home.
Jada Grimes was born July 4, 2009 in a remote Ethiopian village. Adoption agencies approved Jeff and Sheri as the infant’s parents four months later.
“I love to talk about it because my wife and are very much advocates for adoption,” Grimes said when I asked if we could veer away from football conversation. “I haven’t looked at the numbers recently, but if you just look at the numbers of orphans in the world, you’d be amazed.
“I know when I was in Alabama I could say there were more orphans in the world than people who lived in the whole state. The need is just incredible, especially when you travel to a place like Ethiopia … and you see some of the conditions these kids are having to live in. You just feel like you want to do something. At least for us, that was the case.”
Indeed, the numbers are staggering. According to Orphan Hope International, more than eight million children worldwide live in institutional care, with the number of orphans overall approaching 200 million, if not beyond, two-thirds the population of the United States.
Jeff and Sheri met through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and their decision to adopt was rooted in their faith.
“My wife and I had a shared common vision about that, even before we had our three biological children,” said Grimes, who has traveled to Mexico on Christian missions. “It was a recognition we both independently came to. Honestly, it’s blessed us more than I think it’s blessed her.
“It’s such a great learning experience for our other three children, and just being part of a multi-racial family is something that’s really important to us.”
Grimes was raised in Texas and was an offensive tackle at Texas-El Paso. His youth fueled his desire to have a multi-racial family.
“Growing up in the South and seeing prejudice and racism and just developing such as enormous distaste for that,” he said, “it was something we wanted to do in order to make a statement about the way we should all view each other.”
Like all coaches, Grimes has a keen appreciation for athletes who rise from modest backgrounds. Two of the best he’s taught, first-round NFL draft choices Levi Jones at Arizona State (Cincinnati Bengals) and Nate Solder at Colorado (New England Patriots), were undervalued prospects who worked their way to elite status.
But overseas, Grimes has seen people cope overcome oppression and abject poverty, often with sheer will alone.
“Over here, we have so much yet we're never content with what we have and we always want more,” Grimes told the FCA in an interview. “Better house, newer car, better job, and we spend all of our time working to accumulate things. Over there, people don't have much. But they have their priorities in order. As much as we have going for us here, we have that totally backwards. It was a powerful reminder that people, not things, really matter.”
In early 2010, the Grimeses ventured to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, for 10 days to meet Jada’s biological mother and to bring Jada home. Later that year, Auburn commenced an undefeated season that concluded with a national-title game victory over Oregon.
It’s clear which experience was more enduring.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
Here’s a link to my Daily Press print columns, including one from Friday’s introductory news conference for Loeffler, Grimes and Moorehead.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun