MISSOULA — As the saying goes, patience is a virtue, and Trevin Gradney has that skill, in spades.
Now, he, like the rest of the Montana Grizzlies, is reaping the rewards.
"I mean, surreal, right? We've worked so hard for this, and I'm so proud of this team, I'm so blessed to be on it," Gradney said. "And the guys in the locker room have done a great job in turning this thing around. And, you know, we've had a lot of people doubting us. But we've overcome all that, and we've done a really good job, and it's gonna be really exciting."
The Billings product and West High graduate was a long-time stalwart on Montana's special teams as an All-Big Sky Conference performer, but after years of putting in work and biding his time, Gradney earned the starting cornerback job opposite Corbin Walker this season, and in turn, has run with his opportunity.
"And it's very fulfilling to know that, you know, all the work you've put in has built up to this point, and there's a chance now that you are playing for a national championship and you can win that thing," Gradney said. "You always think about it and you always talk about it with your teammates and guys in the locker room and just think about those things."
Gradney is the first Montana native to start at corner for UM since Colstrip's Tuff Harris in 2006, and in his first year slotted in that role, Gradney has blossomed into one of the top defensive backs in the FCS.
His five interceptions are among the nation's best, and for his efforts, Gradney was selected as a first-team All-Big Sky corner for the Grizzlies, not to mention he had the final two pass breakups in overtime against Furman in the quarterfinals that sealed UM's win. In 12 games this season — he missed a pair with injury — Gradney has totaled 24 total tackles, a forced fumble and seven pass breakups to go with his five interceptions, which rank tied for fourth in the entire FCS.
Four of his pass breakups have come in the playoffs.
"I've tried to make the most of those opportunities," Gradney said. "Progressing as a corner throughout this season has been pivotal, I think. Because I think we've progressed as a team as well. We've grown so much. I mean, you look across the board, and you see people just continue to grow each and every day and getting better at what they do. And I think that's just a credit to the guys that are around me. You know, I go against Corbin and all them every day in our individual drills and then I see the best receiving corps in the Big Sky, if not the nation, every day as well. So, I mean, it's been really good. I can't take any of that for granted as well.
"Credit to all them, they helped me out just as much as I helped them. I'm so blessed to be to be named that and in this position right now. I couldn't have dreamt it up any better, honestly. I've worked very, very hard to get here. And I hope that doesn't go unnoticed. I can't even put it into words, I don't even know, it's been so awesome."
And Gradney's celebrations after the game are must-see.
The energy and enthusiasm is palpable and infectious, as it's obvious how much this time and opportunity means to him, and Gradney isn't one to let the moment slip away.
"You got to live in the moment, right?" Gradney said. "You got to be where your feet are. You got to do what you do, what's got you there, right? I'm trying not to take as much of it for granted as I can. It's been so awesome. And if I were to take it for granted, I think it'd be wrong. So it's trying to try and live in the moment."
And the moment lives on for Gradney and the Griz, as the they've got the big one coming up in a few weeks against South Dakota State on Jan. 7, with a chance to make more history at Montana.
"It's so special, this group of guys," Gradney said. "I mean, we've been around — this is my fifth year here, some of these guys six years. And I've been around them every day for those five, six years, you know, so just doing it with this group, but those seniors have been awesome, awesome. Awesome. And I don't think it could have happened to a better group of guys for sure."