Trond Grizzell did not get a final high school season. The onset of COVID-19 during the San Marino local’s junior year meant the end of his high school career in Southern California — but his dream of playing college football at wide receiver was far from over.
“Junior year was my first year playing varsity, so I didn’t really have a big film, or a bunch of opportunities because of that,” Grizzell said. “I was looking forward to my senior year in San Marino, but with the pandemic hitting … they really hadn’t confirmed if they were playing football or anything in SoCal, but it didn’t look great.”
Spring 2020 was a trying time worldwide, and for Grizzell it meant choosing between spending senior year at home or pursuing his college football dreams elsewhere.
“I wanted to play college football and getting a four game season in the spring in California really wasn’t gonna give me the opportunities I wanted,” Grizzell said.
Grizzell and his family visited Park City, Utah in June 2020 and the stars aligned. Park City High School received the green light to play football that fall and Grizzell fit in well with the players and coaches. Less than a month later, he packed his things and prepared to spend his final high school season in a new state. Luckily for him, the entire Grizzell family embraced the move.
“I had to really look at that and make the decision along with my family, and they were nice enough to move out there as well. But they were going to move out there after I had graduated, or somewhere else in the mountains. So, it definitely made it easier for them,” Grizzell said.
He attended school online, which allowed him to “just play video games with (his) friends back home every day.” Most notably, however, Grizzell took the opportunity to play extraordinarily well on the football field.
The leading receiver on Park City High School’s Class 4A team that went 9-3, Grizzell had 36 receptions, 660 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He quickly went from attracting little interest from D1 college programs to talking to scouts at Dixie State, now Utah Tech, BYU, Yale, Air Force, SMU — and, of course, Cal.
Grizzell was most interested in a particular team.
“I was committed to Dixie State, which is now Utah Tech, in Saint George, Utah, but I’d been talking to Coach Toler (Cal’s Wide Receivers Coach),” Grizzell said. He added that he felt that “if he gave me the opportunity to play (at Cal), I was going to take it.”
When asked why Cal, Grizzell answered promptly that it was his best opportunity to showcase his ability at the next level, both “academic-wise and obviously football-wise”.
Burl Toler III expresses similar excitement over his discovery of Grizzell and his eagerness to have him as a player.
“I was just thinking, this is a guy that fits in our program,” Toler said. “He stood out for all these reasons — huge catch radius, just active on the field, flew around, made some plays. I talked to him every week from then on and built a great relationship.”
In the fall of his freshman year, Grizzell joined the Cal football team as a walk-on because there were no scholarships left going into fall 2021. According to Toler, Grizzell would have had one otherwise. During his true freshman and then redshirt freshman years, he only had one on-field appearance, but his place on the Bears’ roster represented the accomplishment of a lifelong dream.
“Probably at around the age of 5 or 6, I knew I wanted to play football at the college level. So, I mean, it kind of started there, and I’ve wanted to play football ever since,” Grizzell shared.
Although from San Marino, not far from UCLA and USC, Grizzell and his family were Oregon State fans. Grizzell recalls rooting for the Beavers — as well as the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks — and dreaming about his own future as an athlete.
Grizzell grew up as a two-sport athlete, playing basketball and football. It isn’t hard to imagine that he would perform well on the court. Standing at 6’4”, he towers over most fellow wide receivers and defensive backs on the gridiron.
Grizzell still challenges himself to play other sports aside from football. A golf aficionado, he frequents Tilden Park for a round every chance he gets.
It is also worth mentioning that Grizzell is a data science major at UC Berkeley. Although this is no easy feat, he has grown accustomed to balancing his schedule as a student-athlete.
“At times in the past, it was something I struggled with more, but I’ve gotten a little more accustomed to just the day-to-day life of things like school and football and not really letting it overwhelm me,” Grizzell said. “Obviously, it’s still hard, but I just try to do the best that I can with my time management.”
Football remains Grizzell’s priority. Over the past few years, he has continued to grow and develop as a player.
“I worked really hard in the off season to get faster, and I think really getting stronger was probably the biggest thing. On top of that, just gaining confidence, year in and year out.”
During fall camp, Grizzell proved himself. Coach Toler took note of his improved performance and overall development as an athlete.
“We know what we’re going to get out of him; we know we’re going to get maximum 100% effort, we know that he’s gonna be detailed, and we know that he’s gonna be consistent,” Toler said. “As a coach, that’s a dream of ours to find players like that, because we know he wants to be here more than anywhere else.”
Grizzell’s combination of stature and speed is something that sets him apart. According to Grizzell, his length allows him to “have a very big catch radius.”
“My biggest strength on the football field is my ability to catch every ball thrown my way, whether it’s high or right at me, it doesn’t really matter, and just coming down with every ball.”
Grizzell also credits the Bears’ coaching staff for his growth as a player.
“Coach Toler has helped me a lot, and Coach Wilcox, all the coaches just really giving me opportunities, and me going out there and seeing live reps and seeing what I can really do,” Grizzell said. “Hearing from the coaches that I’m at a point now where they trust me is probably the biggest thing that’s helped raise my confidence even further.”
In this past Saturday’s season opener against North Texas, Grizzell performed very well, with 11 receiving yards, two completed receptions and an additional 14-yard reception nullified by penalty.
Although it is early in the season, Cal’s coaching staff believes that Grizzell will see ample playing time this fall. When asked how he plans to attack his upcoming responsibilities and the new expectations that come with them, Grizzell answered with thoughtful confidence.
“I just have a mindset of coming in, doing practice, working hard every day, not taking my foot off the gas from what I did in camp,” Grizzell said. “I just want to be the best player that I can be, and a good person off the field. I’m just a normal guy who happens to play college football.”