“I am still fired up about football.”
Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant made that statement earlier this month when he spoke at a C.O.R.E.S. luncheon. Grant is 54 and last November finished his 20th season as Eagles coach by winning a seventh state championship.
And, no surprise, he wants to win some more.
C.O.R.E.S. is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans, although Grant suggested it means “crotchety, old, retired, educators.” He had fun talking to the group, many of whom he’s known for years, and they have been admirers of not only Mike but his famous father, legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant who had four Super Bowl teams.
There’s a lot of the father in the son including the Grant way of “not getting too high, not getting too low.” That doesn’t mean Mike isn’t passionate about football, though, and he’s looking forward to next season. “We get ready (following a state title), one day after,” he said.
Grant expects Champlin Park to “probably be the No. 1” team in the state next season among schools with large student enrollments. His Eagles will pay a visit to Champlin Park in a much anticipated pre-Labor Day game.
Champlin Park may deserve a preseason No. 1 ranking but the Eagles will be special, too. Grant expects 11 starters back from his 2011 Class 5A state championship team. Between 280 and 380 candidates will try out for the team and already about 120 are working in the weight room preparing for next season. “Our kids are committed,” Grant said.
Obviously there’s depth and talent at Eden Prairie High but that doesn’t mean the Eagles win every game. In 2010 Brainerd pulled a big upset over Eden Prairie in the playoffs and last fall during the regular season Wayzata beat the Eagles. Eden Prairie got the most important win against the Trojans, though, winning the state championship game.
“I think they were better than us,” Grant said. “They had better talent. If we played them 10 times, we might win one time.”
Grant’s teams emphasize fundamentals. In the last three seasons his starting quarterbacks have thrown zero interceptions. “We try not to do anything pretty,” he said.
The first fundamental Grant preaches is having the best players available for games. “We try not to get anyone hurt in practice,” he said.
Grant’s dad is still a passionate hunter and Mike is sometimes his companion. “He says ‘let’s go hunting’ and I just drop everything,” Mike said.
Bud is 84 now and his wife Pat died in 2009. But Bud has a girlfriend and he remains a true character, a guy who speaks his mind and enjoys his life.
Mike told C.O.R.E.S. members about how former Vikings owner Red McCombs arranged for his dad to shoot turkeys inTexas. At day’s end Bud’s hosts were nervous about how to entertain the famous coach, suggesting a nearby bar or a game of billiards. “You know what? I like quiet,” Bud said. And then, Mike recalled, his dad sat and read a newspaper for two hours.
The younger Grant said he’s approaching retirement, too, but doesn’t talk like a man who expects to quit coaching anytime soon. “Not unless the A.D. fires me,” Grant said.
The Activities Director at Eden Prairie High—just in case you didn’t know—is Mike Grant. Yup, that Mike Grant.