Grant eager for shot
ROCHESTER — Zach Grant ended his record-setting high school football career at Memorial Stadium.
Now the Rochester product will get his chance to play again in Champaign.
This time for Illinois.
A day after news broke of Wes Lunt's favorite target in high school transferring to Illinois, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound wide receiver — who is a big fan of Wes Welker and Danny Amendola — is eager to prove he can play at a level not many coaches thought he could coming out of high school.
Despite the prolific numbers he put up at Rochester.
And despite the fact he was an integral part of two Class 4A state title game victories at Memorial Stadium.
"It's Big Ten football," Grant said Saturday morning. "That's the real deal."
Grant established a state record for receiving yards (2,310) his senior season at Rochester in 2011, but not many Division I programs noticed.
Most of Grant's offers coming out of high school were from Division II programs, with some interest from FCS schools like Illinois State, Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois but no offers followed.
"Sometimes recruiting is just the luck of the draw," Grant said. "Maybe I wasn't fast enough or big enough in some schools' eyes. That's a big part of recruiting is you've got to look the part. I think that weighed into it."
Illinois is the third school for Grant since he graduated from Rochester in 2012.
After a stellar freshman season at St. Ambrose, an NAIA school in Davenport, Iowa, Grant left to join Northern Illinois as a preferred walk-on.
He went through spring practices with the Huskies, but left NIU at the beginning of July.
Having a close friend like Lunt transfer to Illinois was a big reason why Grant decided to try his luck at Illinois. But not the only reason.
"My family have been huge Illinois fans for some time," Grant said. "It will be easier for my family to come to games, and Wes' decision helped mine."
Grant watched Illinois practice on Wednesday afternoon and is eligible for the 2014 season.
He is coming to Illinois as a preferred walk-on, with the possibility of earning a scholarship.
Grant said he talked mainly with Illinois wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy and recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh throughout the process this summer after he decided to leave NIU.
"Coach Bellamy really stressed I'd have a shot to play after this year," Grant said. "Back at NIU, we had everybody coming back. I looked at the earliest playing time. I'm not saying I'll start or anything like that right away, but I can only hope and pray that I can."
Either way, Grant doesn't plan on switching schools again.
He's had enough of that in the past 12 months.
"It's been a rollercoaster ride, that's for sure," he said with a laugh. "Someone asked me after the last state title game I played in if I would ever play again at that stadium. It's crazy. I never thought I would be playing at the U of I."