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NFL draft prospect Janarion Grant is the most electric athlete I’ve covered

The former Pasco High star should get NFL looks as a return specialist, where he'll shine.
Former Pasco High star Janarion Grant will get plenty of NFL looks in the coming weeks. (Eve Edelheit, Times)
Former Pasco High star Janarion Grant will get plenty of NFL looks in the coming weeks. (Eve Edelheit, Times)
Published Apr. 9, 2018

The move was undeniably clever.

Pasco High was playing Fivay with first place in the district at stake. Pasco's star player had been out with a broken hand, so the team disguised him in warmups by putting him in a different numbered jersey and hiding his dreadlocks in a skull cap.

Clever, but completely unnecessary.

Once Janarion Grant touched the ball, he was unmistakable. He's the most electric high school athlete I've ever seen.

Grant was a two-time North Suncoast player of the year, and his 77 high school touchdowns were believed to be a North Suncoast record. What was even more impressive is how the 5-foot-9, 177-pound Grant did all that — by doing everything.

He could run. He could throw. He could catch and intercept and juke and spin. In his dramatic return against Fivay, Grant accounted for five total touchdowns four different ways (rush, catch, pass and interception) in a 34-point blowout. He would have had a kickoff return in there, too, except it was brought back because of penalty. It was one of the best performances I've covered — and it was completely expected, because Grant was that good.

He wasn't a star sprinter (he was, however, a state champion long jumper), but Grant could still outrun everyone on the field. He carried that with him to Rutgers, where his first college touch was a 100-yard kickoff return for a score against Fresno State.

Of course it was.

All of which makes it a little surprising that you won't find the receiver/returner on NFL mock drafts. The Tampa Bay area could have a large draft class — at least seven former local high school stars seem like sure-fire picks — but Grant might not be among them.

Maybe he would have been, if he hadn't injured his ankle at Rutgers in 2016, or if he had been fully healthy as a redshirt senior last fall. Instead, he finished his college career with four touchdown rushes and two touchdown catches.

Even if he's not drafted, Grant will get a shot at becoming the latest member of his family to make it to the league (uncles Troy and Darren Hambrick played in the NFL, and cousin Jacob Pugh is a draft prospect out of Florida State).

A possible comparison is another undersized North Suncoast alum, Matt Breida. He wasn't drafted last year, but he still finished as the 49ers' No. 2 rusher.

Grant's best hope of making an NFL roster might be on special teams, which is fine. He's Rutgers' all-time leader in kickoff return yards (2,857), and his eight combined kickoff/punt return touchdowns are tied for the most in NCAA history.

Once Grant gets into an NFL camp, I expect him to hang around for a long time. His talent has always been impossible to hide.

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