Father Son Coach Friend Hero
Najee. Transfixed on his name, we would come to know the weight of the name, given to the 3-pound baby boy, born just before Christmas, on December 20, 1990. From birth, Gregory Najee Lewis Grimes defied all odds. Najee came into the world prematurely, spending nearly a month in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit.
Najee was a naturally and spiritually gifted child. Gifted children respond to life with greater emotion than the average person. For Najee, this reality stood the test of time.
Najee was an only-child, yet he experienced life through the prism of an ever-expanding circle of friends. His wonder years were filled with growing curiosities—“Who wrote the Bible?” “What happened to the dinosaurs?” “Did giants really exist?” And for Najee, discovering the answers to those questions was like finding gold.
Najee’s parents coalesced around the idea of providing Najee with the best possible opportunities for broadening his horizons. They took family vacations several times a year, exposing their son to exciting new places, foods and languages, as well as people from all walks of life. As parents, Gregory and Deborah banked on building a solid inner core, rooted in the Beatitudes from his Christian education, yet balanced by the life lessons blended in over time.
Exceeding the weight-limit for Pop Warner Football, Najee took an interest in basketball. The ”5 C’s”, Competence, Confidence, Connections, Character and Caring were fundamental to Najee’s life. By high school, Najee exhibited the simple traits that illustrated character. He was generous, honest in his relationships, studious, respectful of authority and conscientious about his endeavors. Inderkum High School was the backdrop for Najee’s understanding of brotherhood. He met Matt Hinton, then the Freshman Football Coach—and the rest was history. His mantra, “Get back in there,” was a line from Najee’s favorite movie, “Remember the Titans.” The quote was his attitude about life in general, and one he impressed upon his teammates.
As an Inderkum Tiger Team Captain, Greg learned to be a team motivator, good listener, effective role model and the importance of being goal-centered.
Highly scouted, Grimes accepted a Scholarship to Boise State University’s Football Program. At that time, he was youngest BSU Bronco on the team at 17 years old. He grew up and became a man in Boise.
Also while in Boise, Najee got his first group of tattoos. They were symbolic of where he was mentality, spiritually and emotionally. The first tat was a Dream Catcher, a tribal woven web of feathers and beads, suspended on cradles, signifying protection and all things possible. Intermingled in the web, were the words, “As Small As A Giant” Another tattoo was a voyage ship, with an anchor that read Mom and Dad at the bottom. It is a tribute to his parents.
A college graduate at the age of 21, Najee returned to Sacramento and immediately began working with the Roberts Family Development Center. There, the Freedom Schools program was in full effect, a life-changing experience for the youth benefiting from the program. Nothing in the world was more enriching than the community engagement through Freedom Schools.
Najee was living his best life, and just when he thought it couldn’t get any better, he met Denise Huffman. Together, they brought Jaceyon Kajee Huffman-Grimes into the world on August 7, 2017. “Ace,” as Najee nicknamed him, became the central most important part of Najee’s existence. And while Najee’s name meant, “I am proud of my father,” the middle name Kajee signifies “Freedom-loving and free-spirited individual.” And so, with the essence of his being, Najee strived on purpose to be the most essential daddy he could be.
When Najee returned to his Alma Mater, Inderkum, and started a labor of love with the Special Needs program, it was a natural ascension to what he does best—promoting a dedication to optimism. At thesame time, Najee was ecstatic about Coaching the D-Line at Inderkum High. They played on the same field where he had stacked-up his reputation as a no-nonsense sportsman. Inderkum had also entered him into the “Ring of Honor,” where his image and football accolades hang posted for every game. For Grimes, Coaching on staff with the his High School Coaches, and the vital role he played as a Coach was everything he had dreamed for that part of his life. That was when his persona, “Coach Geetchi” emerged.
Despite his effervescent personality, Najee was a serious person. He had an eclectic book collection, he enjoyed probing deeper into meaningful matters and he worked at becoming a dynamic version of himself, because inner growth was essential to him. Greg’s connection with those in his inner circle was genuine.
Najee went into escrow on a new home in June 2022. He paid off his Student Loans, his Car Note and all of his debts. He celebrated Juneteenth (June 19th) as a free man. “Mom, I’m so happy,” Najee texted. And he had every reason to be. Buying a new home for him, Ace and Icey was a gift for the Heavens. He praised God every day for his beautiful life. He had a new business, new home he was moving into on July 17th, incredible friends, an awesome family, and he was debt-free. Life was sweet.
Then it happened. On July 3, 2022, Najee met up for dinner at the Yard House with his good friend, Hennessy Hall. They celebrated the upcoming 4th of July, with a host of friends, mostly from Inderkum. That next day would be the 4th of July, and he had plans for fireworks with Ace. His Instagram stories showed what a great time he was having with his friends. Afterwards, Najee’s life was mercilessly taken. The impact to his son, his parents, his family, friends and community is reflected in hundreds who attended in vigils, text messages, cards, flowers, media coverage and a plethora of friends. He lived an intentional life, and had everything to live for.