Hall of Fame Inductee: John Grant Jr.

By Kyle Devitte | Feb 15, 2022

The enormity of John Grant Jr. is something that is not easily measured. Whatever he is listed at in terms of height, it pales in comparison to his size in person. Not just physically, but tonally. A slight hint of Canadian drawl mixes with a scratchy baritone to produce short and impactful statements. You see, Junior isn’t terse, but he will let you know when he’s done making his point. 

That’s actually how he played, too. A generation of attackmen took the wrong lesson from double-move jitterbug dodgers. The man they should have paid attention to was John Grant Jr. – largely because lacrosse is full of wasted movements. Modern ball carriers are constantly finding new ways to trap themselves into a tourniquet of their own design. Junior was the opposite of that. Not because of where he’s from or when he played, but how he adapted. 

Before we delve into that, let’s talk about the Junior of yore. A nigh-perfect blend of footwork, power, and precision, young John Grant Jr. was everything that today’s hybrid attackmen aspire to be. He could score on anyone in the league from any angle. Old clips feature him twisting poles into the ground just as much as he ran over them. It was his foot feints that got him his separation; not his explosiveness. 

John Grant Jr. became an icon in the NLL long before he set foot on an MLL field. As such, he had little to prove to anyone in the pros. Part of what makes Junior great is his bifurcated nature as a man with feet firmly planted in the greatness of both versions of lacrosse. Those box skills brought new fans across the border and beyond. Junior was a pioneer of sorts for the Canadian style that everyone is trying to emulate to this very day. Yes, the Gaits came before and laid the track, but John Grant Jr. was the steam engine that powered the train. He was an unstoppable force at the beginning of his career and the best pair of hands on the field at the end of his career.  

In 17 seasons in the MLL, John Grant Jr. played in 171 games and put up 643 points. That’s almost 4 points per game. For nearly 20 years. 

His peak season was as the fulcrum of one of – if not the – greatest outdoor pro lacrosse teams ever assembled: the 2008 Rochester Rattlers. That year he scored a career-high 53 goals and played alongside fellow legend (and inaugural Pro Lacrosse Hall of Fame class inductee) Casey Powell. Other members of that ‘08 squad included Joe Walters, Brodie Merrill, and Brett Queener. John Grant Jr. would go on to injure his knee later that summer playing box, but his influence over the field game would grow.

The knee injury that Junior suffered in 2008 was not just another injury – it almost killed him. That’s not hyperbole, doctors even went so far to tell his family that he “might not make it” after a series of infections complicated his return to action. Nonplussed, he went from dying or maybe losing his leg to play at the professional level for 12 more years. No one else has ever done that. No one else will ever do that. 

To me, there is one goal that always stood out. Actually, it was a post-goal moment. In the MLL challenge series in the summer of 2000, John Grant Jr. scored a goal coming from X and got cleaned out. I mean, he got upended like a luchador hit with a lariat. Still, Junior popped up very quickly and instead of celebrating with his teammates, he did a little shimmy robot walk. Like when Mechagodzilla got up from being dropped by his nuclear leviathan doppelganger. Short choppy steps, hands moving back and forth like the feet of a windup toy. It was just another goal, and to most just another celebration, but it remains the most indelible image as that was the first time I saw Junior score a goal. 

Championships became a motivating factor for 24 later in his career. All told, John Grant Jr. would lift the Steinfeld Cup five times total: With the Rattlers in 2008, with the Hamilton Nationals in 2009, twice with the Bayhawks in back-to-back wins in 2012 and 2013, and once more with the Outlaws in 2014. He would play in eight championship finals throughout his MLL career – including his final season in 2020 with the Outlaws. 

Chasing the next chance to win isn’t a negative thing. That label is something that talking heads spew to move the clock meter and hear themselves talk. Who wouldn’t be motivated to win a championship in their sport of choice? What sacrifices would you make? Could you change the way that you play in order to achieve that ultimate goal one more time? 

The legacy of John Grant Jr. is more of a lesson in perseverance. Even though he played his last professional game in 2020 for the Denver Outlaws, he remains a fixture in the lacrosse community as an assistant coach at Johns Hopkins; a career track he began in the pros. Though many pro players have made the transition from a star player in the pros to coaching in the NCAA, few have truly become great. Those that have replicated their success are few and far between. 

But, see – that’s the thing about Junior. He’s not most players. He’s not most people. 

Being inducted into the first class of the Pro Lacrosse Hall of Fame probably isn’t as special to him as winning another title would be. But if nothing else, hopefully, this honor brings a new appreciation for a player that bridged the indoor and outdoor game with his unapologetic need to compete by any means necessary.

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