Rochester's Grant proving doubters wrong

Published 08/26 2014 05:21PM

Updated 08/26 2014 06:38PM

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Zach Grant likes being the underdog.  It's all he knows, so he embraces it.

"I love it," he said.  "It's just motivation to go out and do your best everyday and prove people wrong."

Grant was an all-state receiver at Rochester High School, teaming up with Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt to help the Rockets win back-to-back state titles.  He set an IHSA record for most receiving yards in a season his senior year.  He's second in the record books in receptions.  But at 6' 0'' tall and 190 pounds he didn't have any Division I scholarship offers out of high school.

"There was a lot of state schools that would come and talk but it was all preferred walk-on stuff," said Grant.

So Grant enrolled at St. Ambrose University, an NAIA school in Iowa.  After a standout freshman season, he wanted to fulfill his childhood dream of being a D-I player.  He transferred to Northern Illinois as a preferred walk-on, but after six months in Dekalb he had a change of heart.

"It didn't feel right and I just wasn't enjoying football like I was supposed to," he said.

That's when Grant sought out Illinois head coach Tim Beckman, who offered him a spot on the team last August.  After sitting out the 2013 season due to NCAA transfer rules, the sophomore is ready to back on the field.  It has been nearly two years since he last played in a game.

"It's been hard but it's been a big time learning process for me," he said.  "I've grown a lot more physically and a lot more importantly mentally on the field."

When Grant takes the field on Saturdays, he'll do it alongside his high school quarterback Wes Lunt.  Ironically the last time they played together was in the state title game at Memorial Stadium.

"It just brings back good memories, winning two state titles," Lunt said.  "The kid is a player and I know if I'm ever in doubt and need to throw one up, he'll do his best to go get it."

And Grant should get that chance this season.  He has been running with the second unit in practice.  Not bad for a guy who was told he wasn't worthy of a D-I scholarship just a few years ago.

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