Grant bounced back from medical intervention to have a dominant senior season | Sports
A heart condition robbed West Lauderdale running back JJ Grant of much of his junior season in 2020.
Grant had rushed about 600 yards in the first five contests of 2020 before feeling dizzy and short of breath during a game. Eventually, doctors found an extra blood vessel that was open inside Grant and sealed it, forcing him to miss the rest of his 11th grade.
The break made Grant more determined than ever heading into 2021, and he made the most of his good health, finishing the season with 2,612 yards and 25 touchdowns on 308 carries, helping West Lauderdale to a region championship. 4-4A, a 10-2 record and a berth in the second round of the MHSAA Class 4A playoffs.
Due to his dominance on the pitch, Grant was named Premier Preps Football Player of the Year for 2021.
“It’s awesome,” Grant said. “I feel like I deserved it.”
Knights head coach Brock Clay said Grant was a deserving recipient of Player of the Year honors after playing such a big part in West Lauderdale’s season.
“The big issue with JJ is not just the hard work and what it has meant to the success of the program over the past few years, but also how the season ended last year and how it ended. and doing what he did was very special,” Clay said. “For him to get this recognition and receive the honors he has, I’m very proud of him.”
In Game 1 against Newton County, Grant admitted he was anxious for his heart at first, but the nerves quickly faded when he physically felt he was back to normal.
“There was one time when I ran, I thought it would happen again,” Grant said, referring to the dizziness and shortness of breath that made him realize he needed medical attention. “When that didn’t happen, I was a little surprised. After that, I was like, ‘OK, it’s going to be a good season.’ »
And it was, with the Knights undefeated in the 4-4A region, including a 36-35 home win over Louisville, in which Grant rushed 36 times for 179 yards and three scores.
“It was a great experience,” recalls Grant. “We knew it was going to be the most intense game (on our schedule) and it was the one we had to win to be district champions.”
It meant even more to Grant as he was unable to play against Louisville in 2020 due to the surgery, and his quarterback, Jackson Parker, was bumped before the Louisville game, meaning he would be physically limited. That meant the defenders would grab Grant, but he didn’t mind whether it was against Louisville or anyone else.
“You just have to have an energetic mentality,” Grant explained. “You have to go through every game and always think about the current game, not the one before or the next game.”
Clay said Grant’s game against Louisville was just a microcosm of the type of player he was every week — Grant wanted the ball in his hands as much as possible.
“It wasn’t just this game,” Clay said. “It was definitely special in that particular game, but it was like that in every ball game. Last season, as he got the experience he had, he got to where we called games and he was begging for the ball in the next play because he saw something he wanted to exploit or he felt he could do better on the next play.
After a dominant fall, Grant earned numerous playoff accolades. He was named Class 4A Offensive Player of the Year by the Mississippi Coaching Association and was the 4-4A region’s Most Valuable Player. He also made the Bernard Blackwell North/South All-Star match.
“I’m honored, but at the end of the day, I still have to work hard and get better than I am now,” Grant said.
Grant signed with Holmes Community College to further his football career.