Coach Jeff Grimes, who played college football at the University of Texas-El Paso, has the offensive line ready for a big challenge Tuesday against UCLA.
Grimes is now at his ninth collegiate coaching stop since 1995, and it's been quite a journey. But nothing like the journey he took to Africa with his wife four years ago.
When Jeff Grimes joined the Virginia Tech coaching staff in January, he and his family immediately became Hokies -- wife Sheri, daughter Bailey, sons Garrison and Graydon, and now 4-year-old Jada.
“My wife and I just looked at each other one day when we were sitting in an airport. We had been on vacation and I said I think I'd really like to adopt a kid someday. And she said me too,” Grimes said. “We got to talking about it and knew that would be something that we would do at some point.”
Jada was born in March of 2009 in a remote Ethiopian village. In 2010, Jeff and Sheri embarked on a long journey to pick up their 8-month-old daughter.
“Ethiopia is just one example of a country that has many, many needy children with the AIDS epidemic and civil unrest and so many things that are happening in Africa,” Grimes said. “There are so many children that are left without an optimal opportunity to grow up, and our daughter was one who had a young mother who didn't have the type of situation that she wanted for her daughter. And out of love, gave her up for a better opportunity.”
The trip wasn't without challenges. The Grimses’ faith was put to the test when a few months prior to its scheduled date, Sheri began to have some serious health issues.
“Vision problems, problems speaking and swallowing, muscle weakness, and she was going to be tested by specialists every other weekend and really didn't have any answers for a long period of time,” Grimes said. “I looked at my wife one day and said are we sure this is the time and this is what we ought to be doing right now. And with three other children at home, not having any idea, contemplating does she have multiple sclerosis or a rare tumor that they just can't find. My wife looked at me and said absolutely not. This little girl was meant for us. None of this was a surprise to God and we need to go do it and trust that this is part of our faith journey.”
Upon returning to the U.S., Sheri was diagnosed with a rare auto immune, musculoskeletal disorder called Myasthenia gravis, which is under control with medication.
Jada's transition has been nearly seamless, and Coach Grimes knows the impact she's had on the other children and their view of the world.
“Since day one, it was as if she was kin to them biologically. They have taken to her and embraced it and embraced having a racially mixed family, something that we knew would be a challenge but also an opportunity,” Grimes said. “My wife and I grew up in the south, in an area where racism and prejudice is still evident today but it was even more so 30 years ago. And it's something that we're just so adamantly opposed to that I think adopting a child of another race was part of the message for us.”
Coach Grimes has participated in countless bowl games and participated in a national championship during his days at Auburn. But nothing tops Jada’s story.
“The greatest part of the national championship for me was my wife and kids jumping on me right after the game was over, and being able to share that moment with them and my players. My family is very involved with the players, so them being there with me was an unbelievable moment,” Grimes said. “Really, life is about shared moments and shared experiences. Bowl games are a part of that. But family experiences are much more important.”
A previous version of this story had an incorrect headline. The story has been updated.