Name: John Grant Jr.
Marital status: Married to Raygen
Children: Gabrayel, 7
Career: Assistant coach and player, Denver Outlaws; assistant men’s lacrosse coach, U.S. Air Force Academy
Hometown: Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Home today: Highlands Ranch
Introduction: John Grant Jr. is currently offensive coordinator and player for the Denver Outlaws and the United States Air Force Academy men’s lacrosse team. He has also been the MVP forward for the Colorado Mammoth, and previously won a World Championship for the Denver Outlaws. His jersey hangs in three stadiums … and counting. He also won two state championships as the head coach at Valor Christian High School. Simply put, Grant is widely considered the GOAT. As in Greatest of All Time. On the field, he is known for his creativity in scoring goals. He perfected the behind-the-back, between-the-legs, one-hander shots watching his dad play in Canada and for the professional team in Philadelphia. Hours spent picking up loosies (translation: ground balls) at the local barn (translation: iceless concrete indoor hockey rink) in Peterborough, Ontario, taught him the fundamentals of the Creator’s Game. But despite being the GOAT, Grant may have left his most indelible mark on thousands of Colorado boys and girls, men and women, by nurturing the love of the game in everyone he encounters.
What surprises people about you?
Probably how shy I am. Borderline deathly afraid of meeting new people.
How do people describe you?
Clown. I always show that I am having a blast.
Who do you most admire?
I grew up idolizing the Gait brothers and Wayne Gretzky. I’m a Canadian after all.
Favorite Denver metro restaurant?
Los Dos Potrillos.
What was the last great book you read?
The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon. It really changed my life and came at the right time for me.
What is your biggest fashion faux pas?
I don’t do it, but kids who roll their shorts up or bag. I mean, what’s the point.
What is one thing that you absolutely can’t live without?
My family. Talking to my girls whether I’m home or on the road.
What was your last major purchase?
My home in Highlands Ranch.
What gadget can you not live without?
My lacrosse stick. I hit the rebounder every day no matter the weather. It’s like a baby with a soother.
What are your hobbies?
Golf and playing with my daughter.
What is your most memorable Colorado experience?
The 2014 Outlaws championship. It was great helping my home team win their first championship. It was my giveback to the community that embraced us.
What one word describes Coloradans to you?
What is your favorite spot in Colorado to visit?
Are you involved with any charities?
Denver City Lax, Make-a-Wish Foundation.
What took you down this career path?
I wanted to be better than my dad and beat all his accolades. That propelled me at a young age. Once I realized that I could do that, it was just a desire to be the best that I could be. Once I won a bunch of trophies, it became about being the best teammate that I could be. Now, I’m really focused on being the best coach that I can be.
Like a lot of great athletes, college wasn’t particularly easy for you. What piece of advice do you give to college athletes today?
Put as much or more effort into your academics as you do into the athletics or social aspects of school. I wish that I had put more effort into academics to create more opportunities for me.
What was the hardest part about being a student athlete at the University of Delaware?
Prioritizing my time. Athletes don’t have the same experience as most students and have to sacrifice and plan because it takes up so much time.
Were there any unique challenges being a native Canadian in the U.S. educational system?
Not really. It was more the SAT. There were things on there that I had never even heard of. I loved the college experience. In some ways, you get even more attention.
What is your most memorable professional experience?
My first championship in 2007 with Rochester. It’s still regarded as one of the best games ever played, and I had lost so many championships. It was a huge monkey off my back and I played it with a severely separated shoulder. It was one of the closest groups of guys I ever played with. [He was also the league MVP and championship game MVP that year.]
Is there one player who gave you more trouble than any other player?
Dan Coates, Kyle Rubisch and Lee Zink.
What is the professional record that you hold that you are most proud of?
I never really played for that. I’m most proud of being willing to sacrifice my body for the team.
Do you get any grief for being a Canadian national champion and being a coach at a United States military academy?
They give me grief about Canada all the time. Now they don’t say much. I’m a proud American now.
What’s the biggest difference between coaching at Valor and the Air Force Academy or the Outlaws?
There are really pretty close. I spent a lot of time mentoring and teaching at Valor. With the Outlaws and at Air Force, I don’t get to see the guys as much outside of practice or games. I still see myself as a players’ coach.
If you could change one thing about college lacrosse, what would it be?
The new show clock really helps, although I would change it to 60 seconds for the reset. The league also needs to figure out the dive rule.
What unique challenges does coaching at a military academy pose?
Bringing in Canadians. I’m attracted to a style of play that is really creative that Canadian box lacrosse fosters. But the growth of box lacrosse in America is helping. All of our players are committed to serving our country and that commitment carries over into serving our team. I’ve fallen in love with the place.
What characteristics in your former coaches had the most impact on you?
You learn from each coach something different. For example, I picked up passion from my dad. A lot of coaches are volunteers and they really teach and model dedication and sacrifice.
How would you describe your coaching style?
I’m a player’s coach. I love to both learn and teach. I keep getting better because I am around so many good teachers. I also understand now how my body language impacts my players.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully still here in Colorado coaching lacrosse. Hopefully putting my wife and daughter first more than I have been able to in the past.
If you hadn’t been a lacrosse player and coach, what would you have been?
Probably a teacher.
What is the best/worst thing about coaching with this article’s author?
Giving up control is hard for me, but it was easy with you because of your obvious love of the game and the kids.
Finally, do you see my number hanging next to yours any time soon?
Scott S. Evans is graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia School of Law and is a father of two, a business litigation attorney, writer and high school lacrosse coach living in Centennial. Scott has freelanced for various newspapers, magazines, journals and academic publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Military Law Review and the Manchester Union Leader.
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