Reggie Grimes is Sooners’ mechanic thanks to love of cars

Dan Smith


NORMAN — Reggie Grimes hopes to have a big day Thursday in Orlando, Florida.

But OU's defense already had one. When Grimes was seven or eight years old, his family visited Disney's Hollywood Studios in the Orlando area. When Lightning McQueen lined up before the show, he was waiting for one of the attractions. "Hey little buddy, you in the little yellow shirt," said a distinctive character from the movie "Cars." Grimes looked down at his shirt first. Grimes' mother, Mikaela Grimes-Perry, said, "And he looked up and thought, oh my god, it's Christmas time with Lightning McQueen." He was just talking to Lightning McQueen. It was the cutest thing ever. “If he could be a race car driver, he would. — He would have been a race car driver.

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After a sometimes frustrating regular season, Grimes will have an early start when OU faces Florida State in the Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium (ESPN, 4:30 p.m.) on Thursday. I'm hoping to bring back the chaos of the season.

Grimes' dream of driving a race car collapsed in the parking lot of a church in the Nashville area where he grew up. Grimes' Boy Scouts troupe built a soapbox derby-style car, and Grimes wanted an opportunity to showcase his driving skills.

"He was very excited," said Grimes-Perry. "They started at the top of the hill...and by the time he got down to the bottom of the hill, the sucker had completely collapsed."

Grimes has abandoned the concept of racing, but cars are one of his passions. It all started with the movie "Cars". Years later, Grimes was rooting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, but his first favorite drivers were Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson.

Grimes watched the movie every day. "If a new car came out, me or his dad would go to Walmart or Toys R Us or wherever we could get a brand new Lightning McQueen," said Grimes-Perry. "He still has an entire Lightning McQueen car case that he intends to one day save for his mute son. "Cars and Lego were his." not yet. Grimes has a keychain with a lightning bolt and a McQueen 95 on it. more:How big was the role of 'fundamental player' Jackson Arnold in building OU's hiring class?

On his nightstand are the McQueen and Hudson cars he bought shortly after moving to Norman. During the summer, Grimes and some of the OU trainers host "LEGO Fridays" where they build sets that include lots of cars. Grimes grew up watching his father and grandfather work on cars, and his obsession with cartoons and toy cars turned into real cars.

When Grimes was about 12, his father, Reggie Sr., had Reggie Jr. help change the brakes on the 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe that Reggie Sr. still drives. “We did brake lines, real brake pads and all that fun stuff,” said Grimes. "I actually saw it and said, 'Oh, this is how it works.' (It was interesting)." It has become more than just a practical repair. "It's a really, really special connection," Grimes said. "Just sitting in my grandfather's truck, my father's car, or my own car made me and my father and my grandfather, all three of us, bond more as a whole." Grimes calls his passion for cars "heavy, deep, deep." "My all-time favorite car has to be the Impala. I have a '09. I'm an Impala guy. I love Camaros. I'm a huge Camaro fan," said Grimes. "But honestly, I can work with it as long as I can do it fast."

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Grimes has become the Sooners' de facto mechanic, helping teammates with minor repairs and teaching maintenance.

"One of my teammates didn't know how to jump start the car, so I had to help him with it last year," said Grimes. Another called Grimes and asked for a ride to a tire shop, not knowing he had a spare tire under the trunk carpet. "Clean the trunk immediately," said Grimes. "Please put all your luggage in the back seat." After helping clear the trunk and making sure the pull tab was there, Grimes looked at his teammates.

"This will blow your mind," Grimes said, revealing a spare with a toolkit to install it. Grimes doesn't mind the role. "A lot of people didn't have anyone to tell them this," he said. "It's totally fine. You have to learn how to change tires, how to change batteries, how to change headlights and taillights, etc. In my opinion, it's essential."

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