By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer
There’s one word consistently used to describe Grayland Arnold by his teammates and coaches – leader.
The junior cornerback comes off a four-game and redshirt season that was cut short from injury in 2018. Yet, Arnold opened 2019 strong with a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown in week two against UTSA (Baylor’s first punt return for a touchdown since 2013) and a total of seven tackles in the Bears’ first two games.
Head coach Matt Rhule explained that Arnold’s unselfishness and willingness to do anything for the team are two traits that attest to his dedication, work ethic and overall character.
“He is one of our best players. The game makes sense to him,” Rhule said. “He plays on special teams, his work as a punt returner has been special. […] No one has had more of an impact on the culture of our team in the last year than Grayland Arnold.”
But, what makes the Texas native stand out? Sophomore defensive tackle James Lynch illustrated that it’s the meaningfulness of what Arnold does outside of practice and on game-day.
“You’ll see him on a Sunday, or Monday, or whenever we have a day off, and he’ll be out here catching punts or whatever, and working on his footwork,” Lynch said. “It shows us kind of the way and shows the young guys the kind of way, that if you want to be good, and you want to have your name in the paper or something, you have to do the work and put in more than you think you have to. ”
Rhule acknowledged his outside practice too, describing that Arnold’s dedication has “skyrocketed,” and that the veteran back, inspires those around him, even with things as simple as note taking.
“He is a guy the team just listens to. When he speaks they listen,” Rhule said. “We have tried to convince our guys, and it’s hard in the age of cell phones and iPads, that being an avid notetaker is one of the best things you can do to be a good football player. And we can show them Ray Lewis saying it and Ed Reed saying it and we have guest speakers come in and saying it, they say every revolution started with the power the pen. But, Grayland sits there every day […] and write[s] down everything that is said in the team meeting.”
Arnold is special on the field too as he’s been voted to wear a single digit the last three years and in week two, earned his first Weekly Big 12 honor as Special Teams Player of the Week.
Looking back throughout his career, in 2017, the cornerback played and started nine games, tallying a career-high 35 tackles, seven pass break ups and an interception on the season.Going further back to his true freshman year, Arnold played 11 games with four starts.
As the Bears prepare to travel to Houston this weekend for their first away game, confidence is booming since having the veteran back and healthy.
Baylor takes on the Rice Owls’ at 6 p.m. Saturday in Houston.