Make no mistake about it, Adam Grinwis is a Michigan Man.
Sure, that’s easy to say since Republic FC’s new goalkeeper was born in the Great Lakes State, but what makes him a true Michigan Man is less about the location he calls home and far more about his genuine character.
College sports fans have heard the term before – ‘Michigan Man’ – but what does it mean? And how does one go about earning the title that seems to weigh so heavy in honor?
The title itself is all about loyalty and commitment. It’s about maintaining humility while carrying yourself with a quiet confidence. It’s about sacrifice and an unwavering devotion to your crest or colors and in the University of Michigan’s case, that’s blue and maize.
The title is about showing pride in your work and the organization you represent and fight for. That’s what being a Michigan Man is all about and Republic FC’s newest netminder displays each and every one of those qualities and characteristics on a daily basis.
Grinny grew up in western Michigan just outside of Grand Rapids and there was never a time in his life when he wasn’t rooting for the University of Michigan. His mother was a graduate, so a love for Big Blue runs deep in his blood and if you were to ask him if he’s always been a fan of the Wolverines, he’ll give you a swift and stern response.
“Always,” Grinwis confirmed. “We grew up going to Michigan football games so at like five [years old] I was going to the Big House with my family. It’s like a religion there.”
It was right around that same age when Grinwis was old enough to start playing sports, and soccer was it for him since the very beginning. He also played basketball into his high school days, one of two sports his father Scott competed in while attending Calvin College.
“My dad played basketball and he’s six-foot-six. Man, I wish I would have gotten the height!” Grinwis joked.
The shot-stopper didn’t get Dad’s towering height, but he sure got Dad’s grit and determined competitive drive. So much so, that growing up he had to travel all the way to the eastern side of the state if he wanted to play for a highly competitive traveling team.
“I would say the soccer hotbed was in Detroit and I was in west Michigan, in Grand Rapids which is like three hours away, so in high school when I decided to take it more seriously I had to drive over to Detroit to play club soccer so I had to make that three-hour trip for practice,” Grinwis said.
Throughout his entire soccer journey, the goalkeeper was always gunning for a spot on a top team and once he hit high school, it was crystal clear he wanted nothing more than to pursue his passion at a major university.
And for the Forest Hills Central High School ‘keeper, there was only one option.
“I was super fortunate, my freshman year of high school I knew I wanted to play college soccer at a big school and to have that big college experience, that big athletic program experience,” Grinwis said. “Michigan and Michigan State, my backyard schools during my freshman year were already recruiting me from the get-go. It was nice to get that process sorted out early on because I ended up committing my sophomore year to Michigan.”
Once Grinwis heard from Big Blue, it didn’t matter which major Division I program came calling, the Grand Rapids goalkeeper wasn’t interested.
“It was really hard that the first school that recruited me was my dream school so every time a letter or an email from a coach came through, I almost disregarded it,” he joked.
But the opportunity to attend the prestigious public university in Ann Arbor was something that Grinwis wasn’t going to take for granted. If anything, he knew full well he was extremely fortunate that his hard work on the soccer pitch allowed him the well-deserved chance to be a cherished Wolverine.
“If you went to my high school and were incredibly intelligent, you were lucky to get into Michigan,” he explained. “Soccer is a blessing, it opened up a lot of doors for me and I’m extremely thankful for soccer.”
For as grateful as the goalkeeper is, every door that’s been opened by the beautiful game and every opportunity that’s been presented to him has been rightfully earned, and Grinny has the results to prove it.
Over his high school career, Grinwis was a reliable rock in net. After four seasons at Forest Hills Central, the ‘keeper set the Michigan High School Athletic Association all-time shutout record with 53 career clean sheets and was a four-time All-Conference and All-District selection. Grinwis also was selected to the All-State team three times and earned first team honors following his final season.
When he went off to U of M, he was redshirted his freshman season but went on to have four phenomenal years in goal representing his dream school. In particular, his sensational sophomore season earned him second team All-Big 10 honors as well as a spot on the All-Big Ten Tournament Team following a campaign that was headlined by a Big 10-best 100-save season – the eighth most saves in the nation. When his senior season came to a close, Grinwis was honored with the 2014 Michigan Club Man of the Year award. The quintessential type of award that a Michigan Man would receive.
Grinwis had attended his dream school and left an unforgettable mark on the program so near to his heart, but now it was time to pursue a new dream. This too was a childhood dream, one fueled by a passion similar to his burning desire to be a Wolverine, and that was to one day stand between the pipes on the pitch during a Major League Soccer match.
However, after college it was never a certainty that Grinwis had a guaranteed role in net. Everywhere he went, he had to compete, battle and win his place on the roster. One of the greatest goalkeepers in the state of Michigan was now a trialist hoping to find a new home and a club to commit himself to.
Before becoming the traveling trialist, Grinwis did compete at the USL PDL level with the Michigan Bucks during his college career and was equally as stellar with the Bucks as he was Big Blue. He was PDL Rookie of the Year and Goalkeeper of the Year in 2012 and two years later was chosen as the MVP of the 2014 PDL Championship Game, a match his side were victorious in, 1-0, over the Kitsap Pumas - “poetic tenure to end my time with the club,” he said.
Grinwis wore the Bucks badge with pride and provided honorable service to the club that welcomed him into their organization as a backup while he was still in high school. He was loyal to the organization that opened its doors to him, and he rewarded them with silverware.
His next potential gig in goal was a chance to compete with half a dozen other players to fight for the backup job with USL’s Rochester Rhinos. Nothing was going to be handed to Grinny, a proven winner over the last few seasons, even a backup role.
“I basically had to go tryout in Rochester, they talked to my agent and said they were looking for another goalkeeper, we’ll let him come through, and they had like six goalkeepers competing and they only needed one” Grinwis said. “I had to go through the ringer, I kind of compare it to the Hunger Games, so now every time a trialist comes in I always have so much respect for them because I’ve been through it. After about six weeks I was the last one standing and they gave me a chance. It’s a grind, man!”
After two seasons in Rochester, Grinwis was back to grinding. He was ready for a new challenge and a new chance to chase that MLS dream. Following the advice of his Rhinos coach, he joined Saint Louis FC and was fully focused on proving his worth.
“I had an injury unfortunately so I had to go back to that preseason trial and go in and prove it again and I went to Saint Louis for six weeks and again, I was told they needed a backup goalkeeper, there’s three, four guys there so I had to go through that ringer once more,” Grinwis explained. “I tried out, outlasted the other guys and they ended up signing me and throughout that season the starting goalkeeper and I went back and forth for who was playing. Even though I was signed to be the backup, slowly but surely I worked my way into games and when I did get the chances I played pretty well.”
‘Pretty well’ is a pretty humble way for Grinny to put it, because realistically, his performances in Missouri caught the eye of MLS.
“After my year in Saint Louis, the goal was to get to MLS, just like it was every year, but towards the end of the year I had been contacted by Orlando City’s goalkeeper coach because we had played them during preseason the year prior and he came up to me after and said ‘good game, we will be watching you’ or something like that and then he reached out to me and asked ‘hey, we might be looking for a ‘keeper next year, what are your plans?’ so I was hopeful but not overly optimistic because nothing is guaranteed until the contract is in front of you.”
Nothing is guaranteed, only earned, and Grinwis had finally earned that MLS contract. He did have to give it some thought though, because Orlando wasn’t the only interested party to put a tempting offer on the table.
“It was a crazy process because I had some other really entertaining USL offers after that season in Saint Louis, but I always wanted to play MLS so when that Orlando City contract came through, it was a dream come true,” he said.
Grinwis made it, but similar to his recent roles in Saint Louis and Rochester, he was going to have to fight for every minute. He managed to seize the starting role at the end of his first year but was hoping to see more league chances in his sophomore season. The goalkeeper was rewarded with the task of manning the net for U.S. Open Cup matches, and Grinwis grabbed that chance with both goalie gloves.
“By the end of my first year I had worked my way into a starting spot playing the last few games so coming into the next year I thought I would be in the market to maybe play and ended up not getting rewarded like that but did get rewarded with the Open Cup and it felt like I was training every day for the last two years for that opportunity,” Grinwis said. “I knew I was going to get that run of games whether we made it to the final or lost the first game so I made it a point to do everything I could to help my team win so I could play in as many games as I could that season.”
The cup run lasted substantially longer than just a single game, as Grinny guided his side to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup, a feat the Floridian club had never accomplished before. Despite only logging minutes during cup fixtures, the goalkeeper was beginning to see another positive side of working in professional sports, away from the pitch.
“Even if I wasn’t playing as much as I would have liked to, I was really happy to be part of a club that was so imbedded into the fabric of the city which is one of the main reasons why I was so attracted to Sacramento,” Grinwis explained. “Orlando City was a lot like Sacramento, very plugged into the community, they do a lot with the foundation to give back and help us use the platform we have as players to contribute to the community which is such a rare opportunity that you get and certain clubs offer that.”
Grinny has a giving spirit about him, and even though he’s only been in California’s Capital City since he signed with the Indomitable Club in January, the ‘keeper’s been actively involved in the local community. In early March, Grinwis volunteered his time to participate in St. Baldrick’s Day, an annual fundraiser for childhood cancer research where individuals shave their heads to encourage others to donate to the cause.
“From my experiences in USL before going to MLS, you looked at a select few clubs and thought ‘they do it right’ and Sacramento was a club that when you looked at them, you knew they were doing it right,” Grinwis said.
His soccer travels have taken him across the country and back again, but a humble and grateful Grinwis has finally found a home in the Indomitable City.
“Being here in Sacramento, exploring the city, it just feels homey,” Grinwis said. “Maybe because it feels a little bit midwestern, maybe it’s the trees, I don’t know what it is, but it’s been a warm welcome and I haven’t felt too far from home even though I’m on the opposite end of the country. As a player, it’s such a roundabout journey and when you get to a club, you hope that’s where you’ll be for five years, six years, but it can change in a second so I couldn’t be more grateful to be here.”
Grinwis might be far from Michigan nowadays, but the goalkeeper is closer to embodying the genuine values of a Michigan Man more than ever before.
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