CHARLES TOWN – Hundreds came out amid a chilly downpour Tuesday morning for the funeral of Washington High varsity football assistant Michael Grant, who died Sept. 14 at age 46.
Grant, a father of three whose coaching career began after he played football at Valdosta State in Georgia, “was a big inspiration to the boys,” explained Ronda Lehman, a leader with the school’s football boosters.
“He was great with the players, great with all the parents,” she said. “He will be missed. He taught the kids more than football. He ended up teaching them a lot of life lessons as well.”
Tony Vasquez, a 17-year-old who plays fullback and middle linebacker for the Patriots, called Tuesday’s service emotional. “A lot of us were here when Coach Bruce Davidson passed away and just like then, this is a big loss.”
Davidson, a longtime coach at both Washington and Jefferson High School, died suddenly at 62 nearly two years ago.
Vasquez said Grant had a way of making players “laugh and feel comfortable no matter what.” He said he spent the rest of the day after the service thinking about the difference Grant had made in all the lives he’d touched. “He was such a great guy – that’s what’s been on my mind all day,” he said.
When Washington’s football team travels to Bunker Hill to play Musselman High on Friday night, Patriot players will wear Grant’s No. 75 on their helmets.
A moment of silence in Grant’s memory also is planned before the game begins at 7 p.m., according to Steve Campbell, the athletic director at Musselman.
The loss of Grant brings the team together even more, Vasquez said. “Everything we’ve been through has brought us closer,” he said. “We’re like a family now. These guys are my brothers.”
After he was diagnosed with a brain tumor late last year, the school and its football boosters organized fundraisers to help the family defray some the costs of fighting his illness.
In June, a group from Washington High formed to take part in the Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. They walked in recognition of Grant and Tyler Wilt, the school’s quarterback who also is battling cancer and both Grant and Wilt joined in, wearing “Fighting Patriots” T-shirts, sparkling top hats and other red, white and blue gear.
In both 2010 and 2011, Grant coached his son Michael Grant Jr., a wide receiver on the school’s varsity team.
A Harpers Ferry resident, Grant worked as a manager for FedEx. Besides his son and namesake, other survivors include his wife, Paula Anne Grant, and two other children, Melissa Grant and Matthew Grant.
Grant’s Mass of Christian Burial was held at St. James Catholic Church.
Grant had been a part of the Washington High football coaching staff for four of the five years the school since the school opened.