Walker Grisanti’s strength: Both inside and out

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Walker Grisanti’s strength: Both inside and out

Photo Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Photo Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Photo Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Photo Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Betsy Goodfriend, Senior Writer

Walker Grisanti can bench press 385 pounds and deadlift over 500 pounds from the floor. One look at him and his biceps can strike fear into opponents’ hearts.

“He’s a walking G.I. Joe,” said Vanderbilt baseball strength coach Chris Ham.

“That’s the first guy you want off the bus,” Head coach Tim Corbin said. “That’s the first thing the Florida guys said to me, ‘Holy crap, he’s got biceps on his biceps.’”

Grisanti began his weightlifting journey in middle school, and he was hooked within a few years.

“My parents signed me up when I was in eighth grade to work out with our strength coach in high school,” Grisanti said. “That’s when I really started to work out. Midway through high school, I started to like doing it, and I’d go before school every day with my friend. We’d lift at 6:30 AM, and I’ve just been lifting ever since.”

Grisanti played both football and baseball in high school, and training for both sports was oftentimes a challenge due to the different demands of each sport.

“For football, you have more Olympic lifts, power cleans, cleans, and snatches,” said Grisanti. “For baseball, you have more medicine ball rotations, power stuff like that. We still do all the basics that football does like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.”

He got back into football this summer as an intern for Memphis Football’s strength and conditioning staff. He wants to be a strength coach after graduation, so interning with a well-respected strength and conditioning staff was an important step towards reaching that goal.

Photo by Hunter Long

Grisanti has already earned his USA Weightlifting certification, and he plans to take his CSCS, or Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, exams in the fall.

The CSCS exam focuses on exercise science, which is not offered at Vanderbilt, so Grisanti, a human and organizational development major, is considering studying exercise science in graduate school as well.

His current strength coach emphasized the importance of understanding the science behind each lift.

“There’s a science side of things and a coaching side of things, and you kind of have to blend them together in order to get what you want or to motivate a kid,” Ham said.

His coaches at Vanderbilt support his dream to be a strength coach. Grisanti named being a strength coach for Vanderbilt Football, Vanderbilt Baseball, or LSU Football as his dream jobs.

“I introduced him to the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame yesterday when he was at our training session,” Corbin said. “I wanted them to link up because at some point, he’s going to have a position. He’s going to be in college football. He’s going to be in college baseball. He’s going to be in professional baseball. He may be in professional football. He is going to be teaching himself. I just want to give him the opportunities to do it.”

“Without a doubt, he could be a strength coach,” Ham said. “He’s got the personality to do it.”

His personality has been shaped by tragic losses that have built up his inner strength, too. His incredible physical strength is apparent from the moment you look at him, but his inner strength is perhaps even stronger.

Grisanti’s teammate at Memphis’ Christian Brothers High School and best friend Colin Kilgore was killed in a car crash during the spring of their senior year of high school. Kilgore was committed to play baseball a few miles from home at Memphis.

Donny Everett was Grisanti’s second loss in just over a year. Everett and Grisanti were both local Tennessee products who dreamed of playing at Vanderbilt, but Everett’s dream was cut short in a drowning accident in June of his freshman year. Everett would have been a senior this year.

“Colin was my best friend in high school,” Grisanti said. “We played baseball together. Me, him, and Donny all played together at one point. That was a tough experience because that was my first friend that I was really close with who passed away. Then, Donny was tough, too, but going through that with Colin helped me be strong for Donny.”

“He’s gone through some tough times. I think the toughest time is losing a high school teammate while he was there. I think that was difficult for him. Then, he lost a college teammate while he was here,” Corbin said. “So, he’s gone through some personal losses that are not really easy to absorb when you’re 17, 18, 19 years old. You’re not equipped to handle that, nor should you be. But, at the same time, he’s developed some thick skin because of it.”

Grisanti became even more dedicated to weightlifting as a way to deal with those tragedies.  

“Weightlifting is always an outlet for me,” he said. “When I’m dealing with stress from school, baseball, or anything, I like to go in the weight room and take away all the stress and get a good lift in. It helps me a lot.”

The thick skin and work ethic he has developed from dealing with those losses through weightlifting have helped him overcome adversity at Vanderbilt. After playing in 30 games as a freshman, his role on the team has evolved to be more of an off-field leader. He has just 19 at-bats this season, but he has made the most of them by hitting .368 and drawing five walks.

Grisanti has been a role model for underclassmen by doing everything from helping them in the weight room to becoming a true leader by putting everything out on the field for each and every practice regardless of whether or not he has a chance to play that weekend.

One story in particular stands out to Corbin.

“Before we went to Texas A&M, they were a lefty-heavy staff,” Corbin said. “We had to make the decision to keep him home. I had a conversation with him on Wednesday night. I brought him up [to my office] and said to him, ‘Listen, Walk, I have to keep you home. I don’t want to keep you home, but I’ve gotta keep you home this weekend because of the situation,’ and I explained it to him. He basically cut me off and said, ‘Listen, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to worry about me. I’ll stay back here, and I’ll take care of the guys for the weekend. Don’t worry about it, and I’ll see you when you get back.’ He meant that. It’s one thing to say that, and another thing to do it and mean it. Was he disappointed? Sure. But, he handled it, and two weeks later, his reward is getting an opportunity to pinch hit against Georgia on a Friday night, where we did bring him. And he hits a home run.”

Corbin knows the Grisanti’s leadership in the weight room, locker room, and on and off the field will be tough to replace after he graduates in May.

“It’s going to be missing next year,” he said. “It’s a huge void. We won’t replace that. There’s not a kid on the team that’s like him.”

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