MISSOULA — The Montana Griz football team has had a knack for developing young players on special teams, who then transition to the field on either offense or defense.
And that's exactly what redshirt sophomore Trevin Gradney is hoping to do.
The Billings native and West High graduate was a standout on special teams last year as a freshman in his first minutes on the field, and for his work on the season, Gradney earned first team All-Big Sky honors as a specialist.
"Last season was really fun. Playing special teams for coach (Bobby) Hauck was unreal, it was amazing," Gradney said. "I was just thankful he gave me the chance, honestly. A lot of young kids, redshirt freshmen like me don't get a lot of chances but it was really fun and having that experience and getting in the game finally. Hadn't played in two or three years so it was really cool."
Most notably, it got Gradney on the field for valuable experience and game reps at a young age.
Gradney arrived to UM in 2019 and he redshirted. In 2020 the season was canceled, and in 2021 he was put on all four of the kickoff and punt teams. He broke out with his work on coverage teams for the Griz.
"I kind of just worked at it a lot," Gradney said. "Finally got my opportunity and just capitalized on it, it was fun."
That hard work and dedication to his craft on special teams paid off, and during this spring football session, Gradney has seen his reps at cornerback increase as a young talent aiming to take the field more on defense.
Working on his technique while simultaneously getting challenged by his teammates has helped Gradney grow in his position as he continues to build as a player.
"I think a lot of it was confidence too. Just being confident in what I'm doing out there," Gradney said. "I didn't have too much confidence at corner just because I hadn't played it too much up here but I go up against great receivers everyday. Malik (Flowers), (Ryan) Simpson, Aaron (Fontes), Mitch (Roberts). Going against all of them has helped me a lot and just watching film, being patient and just knowing what I'm doing at least. This spring has been really good just for working on fundamentals and working on what I needed to work on since I've been here."
"I think that's one of the things we've done well around here in development of our players is they work their way into the kicking game and then they work their way onto the field on offense or defense and Trev had a big year," Hauck added. "That was highly productive for our team as well as he played, along with others. And I think it's a good avenue to more play on offense or defense.
"I expect big things out of him. He's a good guy, he's a good player, he's tough. I love the guy."
It's a deep group at corner for UM, headlined by All-American Justin Ford, so Gradney is learning from those ahead of him while planning to remain an impact player on special teams while he waits for his number to be called.
He took advantage of his first opportunity with UM, and now it's about staying patient as he continues to compete and do whatever he can to get on the field for the Griz.
"I kind of knew that coming in and knew I had to get to work," Gradney said. "Lot of dudes are going to count you out but I've just stayed in my own head and tried to do what I can just to stay ready and get ready, so just being patient obviously and staying ready, that's all.
"I'm just glad I'm here and still doing what I can just to help the team win."