Da’Quan Grimes’ story begins like many you’ve heard before. A promising athlete starts their collegiate career only to suffer an injury. They endure recovery, struggle to regain form, and overcome the odds to play another day. But Grimes’ story flips that script. He suffers another injury. Then another. And one soon realizes this story is less about sorrow and more about determination.
“I love competing, and I love playing football,” says Grimes, who will play his final season for the Hawks this fall. “There have been some very difficult times, and I learned early on not everything is going to be sunshine and rainbows in life. I walked through some heavy rainfall, but I’m better because of it.”
Grimes arrived at Monmouth from Gaithersburg, Maryland, in 2016. The freshman linebacker was playing in a preseason scrimmage when he tore his meniscus. He attempted to return after a six-week recovery, but when his knee continued to swell, he was shut down for the season.
After rehabbing through that winter, a second surgery was required in spring 2017 to control swelling. Grimes’ knee continued to flare up during preseason camp that year. He tried resting it, but when he returned, he suffered a hamstring pull while compensating for his ailing knee.
Through his first two seasons at Monmouth, Grimes had yet to play in an official game.
“I was so down I honestly started to question if I could play football,” says Grimes.
Veteran teammates can have a tremendous impact on their younger peers, particularly ones who are searching for answers. Near the end of the 2017 season, senior defensive back Mike Basile ’18, the Big South Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All American, approached Grimes and delivered a message.
“He said, ‘I’ve seen what you can do on the field when you’re healthy. Keep your head up, keep grinding, and you’ll be better than ever,’” Grimes recalls. “For a player of his caliber to say that to me, it meant everything.”
Grimes focused on increasing his flexibility during rehab to take stress off his knee. He was finally healthy and returned for the spring preseason stronger and faster than ever.
When Grimes took the field for the Hawks’ opener in fall 2018, it was the first game he had played since his high school state championship win—1,001 days earlier. He led Monmouth’s defense with eight tackles. It was an emotional return for Grimes. “After playing, I thought about how much I would have regretted walking away,” he says.
The following season Grimes started all 14 games, leading Monmouth in tackles (115) and earning a Second Team All-Big South selection. The 5′ 11″, 225-pound linebacker was poised for a dominant senior season in 2020 until COVID-19 sidelined every Big South player for the fall.
Refusing to be denied his final season, Grimes remained with the program. He took the field in a preseason scrimmage last year and tore his Achilles tendon. He missed the entire 2021 season.
“It was overwhelming emotionally,” he says. “After about three days, I decided to return. I won’t allow an injury to end my career if I have a choice.” He still has more to prove, he says, adding that the program does too in what will be its inaugural season in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Grimes has capitalized on his extra time at Monmouth. He earned his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education in 2021 and then a graduate certificate in public service and communication. He’s currently working toward a master’s degree in communication.
“My goal has always been to put myself in a position to build a life for myself and support my family,” says Grimes. “Monmouth is helping me achieve that. But right now, coming back to play football is something I need to do.”