Sophomore quarterback Grant Gremel took the snap and dropped back, his eyes scanning Minnesota’s defense for any weakness he could exploit to get points on the board for Indiana football.
Indiana sent four receivers downfield to attack Minnesota’s secondary. Gremel diagnosed Minnesota’s look as Cover 2, then his eyes darted to Minnesota sophomore defensive back Michael Dixon at safety.
Dixon dropped deep into the middle of the field, trying to take away Indiana’s inside receivers. Blood in the water, Gremel had found his quarry.
He launched a pass outside to freshman wide receiver Malachi Holt-Bennett, who had Minnesota senior defensive back Coney Durr beat on a go route to the outside. Holt-Bennett spun around and leapt for Gremel’s pass, keeping the ball in his hands while sandwiched between tackles from both Dixon and Durr.
Three quarterbacks were ahead of Gremel on Indiana’s depth chart during the team’s fall camp, a number that would have been four had freshman Dexter Williams not suffered a torn ACL that spring.
Before that, he fought for recognition at Noblesville High School in Noblesville, Indiana. He was a two-star recruit, the 37th ranked player in the state and the 120th ranked pro-style quarterback nationally according to 247 Sports. He had just one offer — Florida Atlantic University, coached then by now-University of Mississippi head coach Lane Kiffin.
Gremel chose Indiana and earned a spot as a walk-on during the Hoosiers’ fall camp in 2019. He redshirted that year and saw no snaps in 2020, though he earned offensive scout team player of the week once and was named Academic All-Big Ten with a GPA over 3.0.
Now, he is responsible forIndiana’s first passing touchdown to a wide receiver since Sept. 11, and the Hoosiers' first passing touchdown overall since Oct. 30.
“When I came here, I never thought I’d be in this position,” Gremel said after the game. “It’s humbling. It’s real special.”
Head coach Tom Allen and the rest of Indiana’s coaching staff received recommendations on Gremel from his high school coaches along with other coaches in the Noblesville area, Allen said. Gremel has made smart, responsible choices on and off the field since arriving at Indiana, Allen said.
“Of all of our walk-ons that we’ve had here, he has improved the most,” head coach Tom Allen said in a press conference Monday. “Tough kid, works hard, attention to detail, he’s very smart, an excellent student, what you want in a walk-on.”
When asked if Gremel could start this Saturday in the Old Oaken Bucket Game against in-state rival Purdue, Allen said all options are on the table and he liked what he saw from Gremel on Saturday. Gremel is excited for the opportunity to be able to play, Allen said, and he’s taken advantage of it.
“He always does the right thing, and it's been awesome to see him be rewarded for that,” Allen said. “He’s calm, very poised, just sits back there and does his job.”
Should Gremel take the field against Purdue, he’d be in for a duel with another walk-on quarterback — Boilermakers’ fifth-year senior Aidan O’Connell. O’Connell walked on to Purdue in 2017 and started against Indiana in 2019, passing for a then career-high 408 yards and three touchdowns in West Lafayette, Indiana.
This season, O’Connell has earned a reputation as a giant-killer. He’s led Purdue to wins over two top-5 teams, Iowa and Michigan State, and helped earn the Boilermakers’ first ranking in the AP top-25 since 2007. Sitting at 7-4, Purdue is bowl eligible.
Clutching his first career touchdown ball and speaking over the cheers of his family, who remained in the stands of Memorial Stadium after the game, Gremel said any pressure that comes with the Old Oaken Bucket matchup doesn’t get to him.
“Being here for three years, I know the plays,” Gremel said. “Pressure's fake. I don’t believe in pressure.”