James “Boomer” Grigsby is the first Illinois State football player voted into the College Football Hall of Fame. (Photo by GoRedbirds.com)
By Dan Verdun
Illinois State University celebrated its 125th football season this past fall. There was more reason to celebrate to Monday when a former Redbird All-American became the first ISU player named to the College Football Hall of Fame.
According to an official release, former Illinois State linebacker James “Boomer” Grigsby was listed as a member of the 2022 College Football Hall of Fame Class. The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame made the announcement.
Grigsby is one of 18 First Team All-America players and three coaches in the 2022 Class that were selected from the national ballot of 78 players and seven coaches from the Football Bowl Subdivision, the 99 players and 33 coaches from the divisional ranks and the NFF Veterans Committee candidates.
This marks the second straight season an Illinois FCS program has seen a player tabbed by the College Football Fall of Fame. In 2021, former Eastern Illinois quarterback Tony Romo was enshrined.
“I am completely overwhelmed by this honor and cannot thank the National Football Foundation voters enough for selecting me to be a part of this amazing 2022 College Football Hall of Fame class,” Grigsby said on goredbirds.com. “This award is so much more than only me. This is for my family, my hometown of Canton, Illinois, my alma mater Illinois State, my friends, my teammates, my coaches, and all the people who helped me along the way. This never would have been possible without all of them. They helped me earn this; We earned this.”
Grigsby, a three-time First-Team All-American (2002-04) and the FCS career leader in total (550) and solo (325) tackles, was a three-time Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He is the only player in league history to accomplish the feat.
Grigsby was also a three-time finalist in the Buck Buchanan Award voting as the nation’s top FCS defensive player. He is the only player in the history of the award to finish in the top-three for three-consecutive years.
Grigsby has been inducted into the Canton High School and Illinois State Athletics Percy Family halls of fame and was selected as a member of the MVFC All-Select NFL Team and Silver Anniversary Team (announced in 2009).
Grigsby was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He played three seasons with the Chiefs, before finishing his career with stops with the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans.
Grigsby continued his relationship with Illinois State football as the color analyst for Redbird football broadcasts on NBC Sports Chicago for three seasons and served as a television analyst for Illinois High School Association football playoff broadcasts for two years.
According to the ISU release, he currently resides in Henderson, Nev., with his wife Jacqueline and their children and works for Stryker Instruments.