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Grant credits Highlands coach for his success

August 7, 2018

Like many high school football stars of his era, Darryl Grant takes pride in having rarely missed a down.

“I played every position,” said Grant, an All-City lineman for Highlands in the late 1970s. “There were times I never came off the field. That’s what made my toughness.”

Grant, who won two Super Bowls in the 1980s as a havoc-wreaking defensive tackle with the Washington Redskins, will be among seven honorees inducted to the SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame on Aug. 25 at the Alamo Convocation Center. The 1977 Highlands graduate will join Fennis Dembo, Tai Dillard, Dolores “Delo” Dyer, Cliff Johnson, David Vela and Julius Whittier in the Class of 2018.

With Grant anchoring both lines as a senior in 1976, Highlands posted a 7-3 record and won a head-to-head tiebreaker to claim the District 31-4A title. That set up a first-round playoff date with Churchill, which had beaten the Owls 31-12 in non-district. Unfortunately for Highlands, it fared no better in the rematch, falling 46-0 to the eventual state champion Chargers.

“When they came out with the All-City team, every other player was a Churchill starter,” said Grant, 58. “I was the only person (not from Churchill) on the first team. So I’m proud of that.”

Highlands coach Paul Martin made sure college recruiters took notice. Without hesitation, Grant credits “Papa Bear Paul” for his role in molding him into a student-athlete worthy of signing with Rice University.

“He worked the crap out of you, man,” said Grant, who was inducted to the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. “Paul and his coaching staff really drove a lot of good things into me and made me a better person and a better player. The biggest thing was his hard work and encouragement to move forward. That’s where it all began as far as being able to go to college and being able go on further.”

The Redskins selected the 6-foot-1, 270-pound Grant in the ninth round of the 1981 NFL draft, envisioning him playing offensive guard as he did his senior year at Rice. But an irreparable relationship with Washington assistant Joe Bugel quickly scrapped that plan during Grant’s rookie season.

“I didn’t get along with the offensive (line) coach,” said Grant, a retired advertising and marketing executive in Centerville, Virginia. “He kept calling me a name I didn’t like. So (Redskins head coach) Joe (Gibbs) called me into his office and said we’re going to move you to defense. I thought he was going to fire me, but I said, ‘OK, I’ll accept this.’ ”

Grant teamed with Dave Butz, Dexter Manley and Charles Mann to give the Redskins one the most formidable defensive fronts in the league. That foursome helped Washington earn Super Bowl rings during the 1982 and ’87 seasons.

“Those defensive guys said, well, this offensive lineman guy, he’s not going to work,” said Grant, who finished his 11-year NFL career (1981-91) with 27 sacks, 11 fumble recoveries and two interceptions. “He’s soft, He’s this. He’s that. He’s not like us. But then I went on to be the first defensive lineman in Redskins history to record 100 tackles in a season (in ’84). I proved to them that I could do (the job)”

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