Indianapolis Colts tight end Kylen Granson has spent his entire life on the move.
Starting in the small town of DeMotte, Indiana, Granson has spent the rest of his life jumping from place to place, starting with a move to Frisco, Texas when he was just five years old.
Shortly after his first move, Granson became obsessed with video games as a means of escape. That obsession quickly turned into an opportunity for his mother to have him focus on something far more important.
"It all started with a punishment when I was in first grade," Granson shared on his foundation's website. "My drive to play video games was strong and this drive inevitably would get me into trouble. Testing how far I would go to play video games, my mom decided to challenge me by implementing a new rule. This new rule was a simple one: for every minute that I read a book, I could earn an equal amount of time to play video games."
What started out as a punishment eventually became a passion for Granson, to the point where teachers would actually forbid him from keeping books at his desk during class to prevent him from getting distracted during lessons. That passion carried Granson throughout school, and carried over into his school work.
Granson credits his love for reading as a big reason that so many doors opened up for him as a football player. Offers from prestigious academic programs such as Rice and Harvard wouldn't have been possible without his academic success along with his football ability. Now, as an NFL veteran entering his third season with the Colts, Granson continues to emphasize the importance of reading and education through his foundation, KG's Kids.
"Literacy is a very important topic for me," Granson told FanBuzz. "If you can't read, you can't go to school, you can't pursue your dreams to a high level. Doesn't matter if you're an engineer or a teacher or a professional athlete."
The foundation started by Granson and his parents has focused on working with local schools to provide books to students. As a whole the program recently raised over 12,000 books over the course of a single month to give kids the opportunity to fall in love with reading like Granson did.
Now entering his third year in Indianapolis, the foundation is just one of the ways Granson has focused on planting roots in the city of Indianapolis. After years of bouncing around, a third season with the same team almost feels unheard of for Granson. Along with his parents moving up to Indianapolis with him to teach at Indianapolis Public Schools, Granson's extended family on his mother's side lives up in "The Region", or the northwest portion of the state near Chicago.
"It's definitely been interesting putting down roots and getting more comfortable here," Granson said. "It's nice to be able to be able to drive a couple of hours to see my family."
Kylen Granson's Unexpected Path to the NFL
Despite both his athletic and academic success coming out of Westlake High School in Austin Texas, Granson's college career got off to a rocky start with the Rice Owls.
After 3-9 and 1-11 seasons in 2016 and 2017 respectively, the Rice athletic department parted ways with head coach David Bailiff. Granson decided to leave the program following the departure of his head coach, but his next step was unclear.
"I had no idea where I was going to go," Granson said. "I was in community college right after leaving, and I really had no spot to go."
While attending Austin Community College with hopes of walking on to programs like Texas or Texas A&M, Granson still wasn't sure of his next step. Then, while attending a Longhorns practice, Granson's window back into football opened up.
"Is that Kylen?" Granson heard someone yell as a Ford F-250 pulled into the parking lot.
The voice belonged to Bailiff, Granson's coach at Rice, and the two began to catch up. Realizing that the talented tight end hadn't found a new team yet, Bailiff suggested a different program to the aspiring college athlete.
"Coach asked me if I had thought about SMU," Granson recalled. "He had coached with Sonny Dykes back in the day, so I took a tour, loved the campus and the culture, and decided to walk on."
Dykes, a relatively unknown coach at the time, had just taken over at SMU after a disappointing four-year stretch with the California Golden Bears. While the 53-year-old head coach is now known best for leading the TCU Horned Frogs to a College Football Playoff appearance in just his first season, Dykes wasn't the clearest bet to turn the Mustangs program around at the time.
However, Granson felt something while at the SMU program that made him want to play for the Mustangs.
"He was great," Granson said of Coach Dykes. "I loved Sonny and the rest of the staff. Everything that they had, including the culture, made it a great time."
Unlike with today's transfer rules, Granson was forced to sit out the 2018 before playing in 2019, but the move turned out to be the perfect one for the tight end. The Mustangs went a combined 17-6 over Granson's final two college seasons, with the young tight end earning second- and first-team All-AAC honors with 78 receptions for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns over that span.
"To say the cultures at Rice and SMU were different would be an understatement. There was a difference in how everything was run. That's not to say that everyone at Rice wasn't putting their all into it. I loved those Rice guys, but we were just missing something. Once I got to SMU, it seemed like everything was clicking."
Led by Granson and former Texas quarterback Shane Buechele, the Mustangs had their first 10-win season since the program's infamous death penalty. Granson's 14 touchdowns in just two seasons set a program record for the most career touchdowns by a tight end.
That was enough for the 6'2" tight end to turn the heads of NFL scouts, and during the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected Granson with the 127th overall pick.
A Make-Or-Break Season For Granson and the Colts
Now entering his third NFL season, things have changed drastically for Granson, who has had a modest start to his pro career with 42 receptions for 408 yards over two seasons.
Along with a new head coach in Shane Steichen and potentially a rookie quarterback starting Week 1 in Anthony Richardson, Granson is expecting a legitimate role change compared to how he was utilized under former head coach Frank Reich. Along with offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, Steichen is finding new ways to get Granson involved in the offense.
"I'm definitely getting to see the ball more, which is awesome," Granson said about Steichen's new scheme and his new role. "Always fun and exciting. I love Shane and Jim Bob [Cooter]. They have a great plan for what this offense is going to be like this year. We're still putting it in right now, but it's all coming together, I can feel it clicking and something special is brewing."
Granson credits his play speed as a big reason for his utilization in the new offense. While he was unwilling to call anyone out by name, the young Colts tight end believes he has at least a step on the rest of his teammates at the position.
"Gosh, he's got great route-running ability. I'm really pleased where he's at. He understands the game of football really well. He understands leverage, technique, all those different things - how to get himself open." Steichen told reporters during offseason workouts. "Really pleased with where he's at and his route-running ability and also as a blocker."
As for Richardson, Granson is excited about the prospect of the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft taking over as the face of the franchise. During the practice that FanBuzz attended to speak with the third-year tight end, Richardson had the crowd going after completing a 60-yard pass to Alec Pierce while rolling out to his left without setting his feet during 7-on-7 drills.
"He f—-ing launched that thing," Granson said.
While journeyman quarterback Gardner Minshew continues to compete for the starting role, Granson had nothing but positive things to say about the team's young rookie QB.
"He's an athlete for sure, he's got a gun," Granson said about Richardson. "He's picking the offense up pretty well and he's just a playmaker."
Despite all of the excitement about this upcoming season, Granson is aware of the business side of the NFL. He still has two years remaining on his rookie contract, but with other talented players at the position like Jelani Woods and Mo Alie-Cox, he's aware that he could be on the move again, just like he has done throughout his entire life.
"[Planting roots in Indianapolis] is cool, but I know that at any point something could change and I could have to move," Granson said. "I don't know if staying in one place is part of my DNA. I've had to pick up and move at every juncture of my life. As a little kid, as a pre-teen, as a teen, out of high school, in college, as an adult."
Regardless of what the future holds for Granson, the Colts tight end has had an entire life to be prepared for whatever happens next in his NFL career.
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