Feb 5, 2019

Grant 24.jpgBy Mitchell Courtney -- It is hard to argue the greatness of a man who has had his jersey number retired by two teams, the Colorado Mammoth and the Peterborough Lakers. However, John Grant Jr. was honored at his third jersey retirement ceremony in Rochester on Saturday night, furthering the notion that he is one of the best to ever play the game of lacrosse. Grant returned to Rochester with his wife, Raygen, and their daughter, Gabby, to celebrate all that he has accomplished in his storied career.

Considered the greatest player of all time by most, Grant’s humility is impressive, and his competitive fire still burns deep. On a night in which current Knighthawks players lined up to congratulate Grant, and also to have him autograph their warm-up shirts with a G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) on the front and his famous No. 24 on the back, he gave all of the credit to the men who went to battle with him on the field.

“I am where I am today because of the guys that I played with and learned from,” said Grant. “They taught me how to play the game the right way.”

banner raising.jpgIt seems backward to hear the all-time great giving all of the credit for his successes to those who surrounded him daily, but that is the kind of person Grant is. The Buffalo Bandits drafted him in the third round of the 1995 MILL Entry Draft, but he opted to play college lacrosse for the University of Delaware instead. After being selected first overall in the 1999 NLL Entry Draft, Grant was named Rookie of the Year. Tim Soudan, a veteran with the Knighthawks in Grant’s early years, knew that the former Delaware Blue Hen was destined for greatness.

“He could not handle making mistakes,” said Soudan positively of Grant’s early years with Rochester. “I have played with a lot of people in my life, but John Grant is the best player I have ever played with.”

Soudan mentioned that Grant’s drive was perhaps more important than his skill on the field, consistently laying out everything he had for the betterment of the team.

“He could play hurt better than anybody I have ever seen,” he said. “Even though he was never a captain when I was playing with him, he was a leader.”

Although Grant would not boast about his ability to play through injury in some of the biggest moments of his career, his nonchalant recollection of incredible moments is implausible. As a video tribute of his greatest career moments played on the big board at Blue Cross Arena, a clip of an unbelievable behind-the-back goal was shown briefly, followed by Grant saying softly,

“I did that on a torn ACL.” Grant’s personality has endeared him to many, and his teammates are no different.

Knighthawks great Pat Cougevan noted that Grant was one of the best teammates he has ever had the pleasure of playing with.

“In early practices with him, he was incredible,” said the 2011 Knighthawks Hall of Fame inductee. “He would dominate every aspect of the game on the field, but in the locker room he was a goof.”

Now that most of the men from those Knighthawks teams have families of their own, a night that allows them to reminisce is one that they will always appreciate.

“I miss it when I come to games like this, but we get to spend more time with our kids,” said Cougevan. “I get to coach my kids, and John gets to coach his daughter. This is what we live for now.”

2007 champs.jpgCougevan also explained that the 2007 championship team will always be something that they can look back on fondly together.

“There was a core group of us, and nobody can ever take those moments away from us,” he said. “In those days, I spent more time with John and Regy [Thorpe] than I was able to with my wife.”

Former Knighthawks forward Patrick Dutton also chimed in on how important Grant was to not only Rochester but lacrosse as a whole.

“One of the best things about John is that he hated to lose at anything; at lacrosse, at basketball or a game of darts,” he said. “From my perspective, that fed his drive to be great.”

Some may think that all professional athletes have a deep and burning desire to compete in every aspect of their lives, but Dutton noted that Grant is in a class of his own.

“There are not a lot of guys who have the innate ability to lead a group that is very much alive in John Grant Jr.,” he exclaimed.

To go along with his Rookie of the Year Honors, Grant also holds Rochester franchise records for goals (347), total points (719), playoff goals (47) and playoff points (82). In 2007, Grant earned NLL MVP honors on his way to a championship season with the Knighthawks and a Championship Game MVP award. Grant’s second NLL MVP award came with the Colorado Mammoth in 2012.

There are other awards such as numerous World Lacrosse Championships, both indoor and outdoor, Mann Cup Championships and countless MLL titles and awards; but Grant remains confident that he could not be where his today without his family.

“I am lucky to have them,” said Grant of his wife and daughter. “They are the reason I keep going.”

From rookie of the year to all-time great, John Grant Jr. has been the epitome of class, humility, and greatness; and because of that, no player will ever wear No. 24 for Rochester again.

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