Grant Venham was all smiles.
The former Warren football and basketball standout, who was at Marietta College's Ban Johnson Arena for the Warriors' Ohio River Classic boys' basketball game against Upper Arlington on Saturday, had some good reasons to be jolly over the holidays.
"After the season, they told me they were impressed, that they could trust me after I got a year of experience in," said the 20-year-old Venham. "So, after the season, they told they were going to finalize things and give me a full ride."
A full ride as in a football scholarship at Ohio University. At OU, Venham, a redshirt freshman, is the Bobcats' punter on special teams.
"There was a little extra pressure on me," Venham continued. "I had one more game before I was actually on scholarship to do good. I did all right."
Indeed he did.
Against Louisiana-Monroe in last Friday's Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., last Friday, Venham got an opportunity to punt twice, and one was kicked 43 yards and the other went 42.
More importantly, Frank Solich-coached Ohio (9-4) defeated the Warhawks (8-5) pretty handily, 45-14.
"We had a lot time to prepare, and we we were all healthy," Venham said. "That was the same way it was against Penn State (in the season opener)."
"Our defense was incredible," he continued. "We were hitting people so hard that they didn't want to get tackled."
What a difference one year has made in the life of Grant Venham.
Back on Dec. 17, 2011, Venham was a spectator at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl when Ohio beat Utah State, 24-23.
"I went to Boise last year, but I was redshirted, so I didn't dress," he said.
During that fall of 2011, Venham said he "ran a little as a wide receiver on the Bobcats scout team.
"That's what I played in high school," he said. "But now that I'm the starting punter, they don't let me do any of that."
Overall, Venham had a good "first" season as Ohio's punter with numerous 40-plus yard kicks and several downed in inside the 20-yard line. His biggest boot was a 55-yarder against the Massachusetts Minutemen on Sept. 29.
There was one game, though, that Venham and Ohio would probably like to forget, the Bobcats' 26-14 setback to Bowling Green on Nov. 7. During that contest, he had two punts blocked and was forced to scramble after a muffed snap.
Needless to say, it wasn't pretty, but things ultimately got "corrected."
"They finally got the whole punting scheme worked out," Venham said. "It was a little rough at one point in the season."
Fast forward to a better time, like last week, and the journey to Shreveport - a lot of good memories.
"Louisiana is really nice," Venham said. "We got there Monday (Dec. 24).
"The first day was 55 and sunny and after that it was about 30 degrees every day after. It was about the same temperature there as it was here."
Good football weather, though, right?
"It was a little chilly," said Venham, grinning. "And it was windy but I can't complain."
In case you're wondering, Venham's parents, Morgan and Kelly, did not make the trip south for the bowl game. "Mom and dad wanted to go," Venham said, "but I told them that they should stay home and watch the game on the TV, and save all that money and be home with everybody for Christmas."
Apparently, after Ohio won, the team didn't stick around Louisiana for very long, and did much of its celebrating on the flight back home.
"After the game, we got dressed headed over to the airport, and made it back around midnight," Venham said. "Everyone was in a great mood. We had a lot of fun."
Venham got back just in time to see the Warriors (5-1) suffer their first setback of the season, a 69-47 loss to Upper Arlington. Oh, well....
"I'm off for two weeks, now," smiled Venham, who is a psychology major at OU. "Then I'll start offseason workouts and school."
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org