Saturday, July 4, 2009 | 8:46 a.m.
When cousins Xavier and Jalen Grimble went to register for their first youth football team, they were told they couldn’t play because they weighed more than the maximum allowed for their age group.
So, their fathers signed them up for a team with children four years older — a risky move considering the boys were just 7 and 8 years old — to start a career that appears headed for stardom.
Xavier Grimble, a senior-to-be tight end at Bishop Gorman, and Jalen Grimble, a rising junior defensive end for the Gaels, are two of the nation’s most sought-after college recruits.
The players, always big for their age, credit years competing against older athletes as the key to their success.
“We were never the all-stars on our team those first few years,” said the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Xavier Grimble, who committed to USC three months ago. “But after a few years, we adapted to it. Then, when we started playing in our age group, it was easy.”
Xavier Grimble is rated as the nation’s No. 1 tight end by recruiting Web site Rivals.com, which also ranks him as the nation’s No. 24 overall recruit.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Jalen Grimble, who is just 15 years old, already has offers from USC, LSU, UCLA, Utah, Texas Tech and UNLV.
“They have a lot of God-given ability, some of things you can’t teach,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “They are very humble and hard-working. If you take work ethic with their God-given ability, the sky is the limit for those guys.”
Jalen Grimble, who had 28 tackles and 3.5 sacks last fall, has seen his stock skyrocket this summer.
He excelled last week at USC’s Rising Star camp and is one of a handful from the class of 2011 offered a scholarship by the perennial-power Trojans. While playing alongside his cousin at USC seems like a logical choice, Jalen Grimble plans to be thorough in the recruiting process and take trips to his top three schools next spring.
For now, the cousins are enjoying their time at Gorman. They often line up against each other in practice and said the competition has helped shape them into Division I-caliber athletes.
“We make each other work harder,” Jalen Grimble said. “We know what each others’ weaknesses are. I would say it is 50-50. He beats me half of the time and I take him the other half.”
Jerry Grimble, Jalen’s father, has been the boys’ coach since their first year in youth football and is the mastermind behind their progression. It was largely his idea to have them compete with older children.
“Once you get that helmet on, it doesn’t matter how old you are,” Jerry Grimble said. “I never put them first or made them the star of the team. I just told them to earn it.”
And earn it they have.
Xavier Grimble was a starter as a sophomore on Gorman’s state championship team in 2007, and he caught 13 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns last fall.
He was a first-team All-Sunset Region selection and had offers from the likes of Florida and Oklahoma before committing with USC.
Playing possibly their last season together next fall, the cousins say they will cherish each day together. Their careers have featured many high points, but a state championship this season would carry extra significance.
“We have been playing football together since we were knee-high, so winning a state championship would be like a dream,” Xavier Grimble said. “It’s fun and nice to see (Jalen) grow and mature.”
Once they hit college, they are likely to have to grow up fast and get used to playing against older players, again. Xavier Grimble could very likely start for USC in 2010 as a 17-year-old freshman.
“Playing against older kids taught us how to grow up quickly,” Jalen Grimble said. “There was no complaining or crying. You just had to man up.”
The duo highlight a Gorman roster that includes seven with Division I offers. Defensive end Alex Turner and linebacker Evan Palelei have committed to Stanford while offensive lineman Geoffry Gibson committed with Cal. Wide receiver Taylor Spencer and defensive end Ian Bobak also have offers from major colleges.
Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].