By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — Before the ball is snapped, McAlester senior linebacker Lane Grant tries to read the offense and determine where the ball is going. Once he figures that out, he has several techniques he can use to get off a block and break up the play.
But complimenting all his strong fundamentals, Grant also just wants to find an opponent and make a hit.
“Coach (Kevin) Harmon taught us to always read the guard first, unless they’re in two-back and they have fullback,” Grant said Thursday.
“He can either come base out on you, like come straight at you, or he can pull. Whenever he pulls, you yell ‘pull, pull, pull,’ letting your other linebacker know that he needs to go cage him on the inside.”
Born in McAlester, Grant attended Frink-Chambers until the eighth grade. He spent a semester at Savanna High School, then transferred to McAlester to finish his freshman year.
“My mom and dad just thought the education would be better if we moved here,” Grant said. “It’s a great place.”
Grant said his football career began in the second grade in Savanna’s Little League. He started learning the middle linebacker position in fifth grade, and he’s played that position ever since.
As a linebacker, Grant has had to both cover receivers on passes and try to stop running plays at the line of scrimmage. He said learning opposing passing routes took some time, while “caging,” a method of breaking through a block, came more easily.
As Grant plays this varsity season, he’s doing so healthy for the first time in a couple of years. There was a broken ankle during baseball preseason his sophomore year, then three broken toes while running during the summer before his junior year, then a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee against Durant his junior year that didn’t require surgery but still kept him off the field.
Grant said he went into the offseason before his senior year focused on lifting and gaining strength.
“I was trying to get my legs strong, getting them back to where they were before I broke my ankle,” Grant said. He added that he finally started feeling back to full strength while lifting about midway through the offseason before his senior year.
Because of so many games missed due to injury, Grant said he’s still looking for that favorite memory that’ll stay with him after his football season ends within the next five weeks. But a particularly smart read Grant made during the Buffs’ Week 8 game at Bishop Kelley in Tulsa might rank among the best.
“They ran a screen pass, and their linemen, they took their pass-drops, but they released too early,” Grant said. “I noticed it and just made the play.”
Even though Grant didn’t enter this season with as much experience as some of his fellow seniors, he said his role on the Buffs has definitely changed as he’s gotten older. As an inside linebacker, Grant said he’s responsible for getting the other linebackers and defensive linemen lined up before fellow inside linebacker Robby Stephens calls out the final alignment.
“I just feel like I should do more, take a little more charge,” Grant said.
Like most seniors, Grant said this season has definitely seemed to fly by. Once the season ends, he said he’ll probably most miss his teammates, many of who have been his best friends at McAlester High School.
Being a Buff has also been a family thing for Grant. His older brother Seth finished his Buffs career in 2012, and Lane said his entire family has always been supportive.
Lane said he found it an overall enjoyable experience playing football at the same time as his brother, but “sometimes I’d get at him, he’d get mad at me, we’d just go hit each other.”
Once he graduates high school, Lane said he’ll go to Oklahoma State University, following Seth to Stillwater. Though he doesn’t yet know what he wants to study, Lane said he’s interested in working in the oil industry after graduation.
“I kind of want to do something where, I don’t know what they’re called, but the guys that drive around, they’re on call all the time, and they go check the oil wells, write down the statistics,” Grant said.
“It just seems like it’d be fun.”
A two-sport athlete, Grant also plays third base in baseball. He said he especially enjoyed playing JV baseball with coach Jude Schlesselman his freshman year, which allowed him to bond with many other members of the Class of 2014.
When he has free time, Grant said he likes to hunt, especially deer hunt, and fish.
“I got a 12-point (buck),” he said. “I think it was my 10th-grade year. It was a pretty nice deer. It’s (mounted) in my room.”
Grant may have lost some of his football career to injury, but he’s worked hard to make sure he doesn’t lose the skills necessary to play his position well.
Because of that, whenever he’s on the field, Grant’s always capable of making a big play.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.