"Everyone seemed to be talking about this talented player coming to USC," said Grady, who was expected to take over as the Trojans' main ball-carrier as a senior in 1967. "The only question was what position he would play; whether it was at running back or wide receiver."
The player in question turned out to be Orenthal James Simpson, and as Grady told FanHouse this week, "the rest is history".
In the spring of 1967, Simpson transferred from City College of San Francisco to USC, where he went on to become one of college football's greatest players.
"Now, this was a long time ago and some memories are gone, but I do remember what it was like when I first heard of O.J.," said Grady, who shared rushing duties with then-senior Don McCall for USC in 1966.
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"I backed up Mike Garrett my first varsity year [as a sophomore in 1964] and then redshirted in 1965, the season Mike won the Heisman. In 1966, I split time with McCall and saw a lot of action. So when ([McCall) left, everyone figured that I was kind of going to get a lot of play my senior year."
Legendary USC coach John McKay had a different plan.
After the Trojans finished with a disappointing 7-4 record in 1966, which ended with a loss to Purdue in the Rose Bowl, McKay -- who would go on to become a member of the College Football Hall of Fame -- promised to upgrade his team's talent level and turned to assistant coach Marv Goux.
It didn't take long before Goux, considered one of the nation's top recruiters, made Simpson USC's top priority and convinced him to sign with the Trojans.
Paul Hoffman was a student at Long Beach City College during this time and recalls how the O.J. Simpson phenomenon began to spread after he played in the 1966 Prune Bowl.
"LBCC (Long Beach City College) has a really good team, but the Vikings ran up against a flanker/RB whose name was OJ Simpson," Hoffman wrote in describing about the game for SCPlaybook.com. "I had never heard of him. Maybe it's because he had football abilities that came from the planet Krypton. He ran all over the field and all over LBCC, and I was just in awe."
In 18 junior college games, Simpson scored 54 touchdowns and averaged 9.2 yards per carry for 2,445 yards, a rushing record that stood for 27 years.
Numbers good enough to catch Grady's attention.
"Hearing about him coming to SC was big to me," Grady said with a chuckle. "I guess I had a little more interest than most."
Simpson participated in only 10 spring football practices before McKay told him to join the Trojans' track and field team full-time. Simpson was that good.
"I knew that he was different than any other back I had ever seen during my first practice with him," Sam Dickerson, a wide receiver at USC, said in 1993. "He came through a hole and gave a head fake one way and then took off the other way, all before you could blink an eye."
In many ways, Simpson was already a celebrity before he played his first game for the Trojans. Check out how Sports Illustrated described McKay's newest offensive weapon in a College Football Preview Issue for the 1967 season:
"Most exciting of all is a junior-college transfer who was yet to carry the ball for the Trojans, O. (for Orenthal) J. (for James) Simpson. O.J. handles the 100 in 9.4, is big enough, at 6'1" and 202 pounds, to break tackles-much in the style of Mike Garrett, who has been instructing him this year -- is a fine feinter and a superb pass catcher."
USC began the 1967 season against Washington State at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and Simpson dominated. He scored three touchdowns in the Trojans' 49-0 win.
"OJ was brilliant from the beginning of the game," Hoffman wrote. "Nobody who had ever carried the ball at USC has had his speed, his elusiveness, his size and his power. ... OJ hit the holes like a rocket."
Simpson's legend grew with each game as he helped USC to a 4-0 start heading into a key October matchup against Notre Dame in South Bend.
With the Irish determined to stop him, Simpson struggled early but he took over late and finished with 160 yards in 38 carries to lead USC to a 24-7 victory.
"He is not in a union," McKay said about Simpson following the game. "He can carry the ball as many times as we want him to."
Simpson even impressed Roger Valdiserri, then-Notre Dame Publicity director. Valdiserri told Sports Illustrated that "Simpson's nickname shouldn't be Orange Juice ... it should be Oh Jesus, as in 'Oh Jesus, there he goes again.' "
Around Los Angeles, Simpson, who also was a member of USC's world-record setting 440-yard relay team in 1967, was regarded as the perfect fit at the right time for the Trojans.
With the city still recovering from the 1965 Watts Riots, Simpson stepped into the role as a "safe-friendly" sports hero who not only crossed racial lines but also broke down campus barriers between USC and UCLA.
"Everybody knew about O.J.," said Dr. Assibi Abudu, who attended UCLA in the late 1960s. "He was a local phenomenon who was known all across the country. Even around Westwood, we always talked about O.J.
"You have to remember, this was an exciting time for African-Americans, who were starting to be more accepted following the riots. ... And O.J. was one of the people who emerged (as a celebrity) during this period."
Even when Simpson didn't play, he was the story. Grady experienced this first hand when Simpson was injured early in the third quarter of USC's seventh game of the season against Oregon.
Although Grady gained 106 yards and scored a touchdown all after halftime in a 28-6 win for the Trojans, most of the attention was given to Simpson's injury once the game ended.
"Sometimes, people forget how good O.J. was," Grady said. "Tailbacks in those days were considered huge when they weighed 205. He was over six-foot with that size and speed. He brought a new element to the game."
On Nov. 18, 1967, Simpson's status took another step when USC faced UCLA with the winner assured a spot in the Rose Bowl and a clear-shot at the No.1 national ranking.
Before a national television audience and a sellout Coliseum crowd, the Trojans won the game, 21-20, highlighted by an electrifying 64-yard cross-field touchdown run by Simpson in the fourth quarter.
"I have always said that the [USC vs. UCLA] 1967 game was easily the highlight of my athletic career," Simpson told me in 2004.
"It was far beyond even when I ran on the 4x100 world record team at SC and even more than the 2,000 yards. (In 1973, Simpson became the first NFL player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season). I never felt more elated or joy after any athletic event than I did after that game."
Although UCLA quarterback Gary Beban went on to win the Heisman Trophy that season, it was USC's dynamic running back that became college football's main attraction.
And, thanks to Simpson's play, USC was named national champions after he rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns in the Trojans' 14-3 victory over Indiana in the Rose Bowl.
The next year, it was more of the same for Simpson and the Trojans starting with a tough matchup at Minnesota to kick off the 1968 season.
Everyone associated with the Gophers, who were Big Ten conference co-champions in 1967, was excited. Minnesota linebacker and captain Noel Jenke recently said that even the school's stadium workers got involved, getting the grass to grow thick and tall in attempt to slow down Simpson & Co.
"I remember asking the old groundskeeper guy when he was going to cut it," Jenke told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "He just laughed and said he'd been told to let it go."
The Gophers, who also helped Simpson to his feet after every play in order to keep him from resting, did a good job for nearly three quarters. Down the stretch, Minnesota's defense struggled and Simpson rolled.
He rushed for 107 fourth-quarter yards and scored two of his four touchdowns (both inside the final four minutes) to lead USC to a 29-20 victory.
Jenke recalled how he felt when he shook Simpson's hand before the pre-game coin toss:
"I looked down and he had the skinniest legs I'd ever seen on a running back," Jenke said. "I thought, 'You've got to be kidding me.' I thought we'd break him in half. But man, he could cut on a dime, even on those long legs. I spent most of the day chasing him."
In 1968, Simpson went on to set an NCAA record for most yards rushed in a season (1,709) and led the Trojans to a 9-1-1 mark. For his efforts, Simpson won the 1968 Heisman Trophy by a landslide margin.
It completed a two-year stint at USC for Simpson, who majored in sociology but never graduated. In his two seasons, Simpson twice earned consensus All-American honors while equaling or bettering 19 NCAA, Pacific 8 and USC records.
Although Simpson is now known for being acquitted in 1995 for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, and is currently in a Nevada prison serving a sentence for armed robbery, his athletic days at USC remain special to anyone who watched him play.
"I know that we certainly were glad to have O.J. on the team," said Grady, the man Simpson replaced in the lineup. "He was just a likable guy. Always smiling. Always talking. To me, it was delightful to have him on the team. He worked hard and was very approachable. And of course, he was one heck of a football player."