Belleville’s Grant comes home, presents school with Super Bowl football

The scribe Thomas Wolfe once penned “You can’t go home again.”

Well, even though it was a short drive from his home in West Orange to his native Belleville, David Grant proved last week that you indeed can come home _ and do so with a little fanfare and pizzazz.

Grant went to Belleville High School, where he was a standout football player, last Monday night for the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting.

While Grant was there, he presented the school with a commemorative Golden Football, symbolic of the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl.

Every single player who participated in the Super Bowl over its storied 50-year history was given a golden Wilson football to present to the player’s high school alma mater.

Grant was a defensive tackle on the Cincinnati Bengals for Super Bowl XXIII _ that’s right, some 27 years ago.

As part of the NFL Foundation, Belleville High School will be provided with a new character education curriculum and the opportunity to apply for grants up to $5,000 to help support growing football programs.

Grant is now the strength and conditioning coach at West Orange High School, where his son, 19-year-old D.J. played linebacker and now plays for Pace University.

But Grant had not returned to Belleville High School since his graduation in 1982 _ when he left Belleville and went on to West Virginia University, then on to the NFL, where he remained for six seasons, first with the Bengals, who drafted Grant in the fourth round, then Tampa Bay and Green Bay.

But last Monday represented the first time since he graduated from the school that he stepped into the auditorium.

“I can’t believe I haven’t been in this auditorium in all that time,” Grant said after the golden football presentation. “Last time I was in this auditorium, I saw the play, ‘Grease.’ I guess this proves that no matter where you’re from, you can always do something.”

After his playing days were over, Grant spent 12 years as the strength and conditioning coach at Seton Hall University, working mainly with the basketball program.

“It was great to be around Big East basketball for that time,” Grant said. “I had a front row seat for all of that. I also worked with volleyball, soccer, baseball. If I was able to help someone and give them advice, then I was happy.”

From there, Grant remained in New Jersey, getting the opportunity to coach and teach at West Orange.

“I was able to come to West Orange with my family and still be involved in the field of athletics,” Grant said. “It really has been great.”

When Grant learned of the NFL’s Golden Football program involving all Super Bowl participants, he was pleased to be a part of it.

“I was really excited about coming back,” Grant said. “I have friends who put it on Facebook and they were posting about it. If I can be an inspiration to any kid from Belleville to do what you want to do when you grow up, then that’s great.”

Grant was asked what his greatest memory of high school was.

“I hate to say it was in a loss, but it was,” Grant said. “We were playing Union, who was No. 1 in the state at the time in the (NJSIAA North 2, Group IV) state playoffs and they beat us, 12-7. That’s what stands out in my mind. I have a lot of good memories here and I always remember the bad.”

Grant took his father, John, and son, D.J. around the school for a brief mini-tour.

“It was great to share this with them,” Grant said. “Three generations of Grants here. It was good for them to see this.”

Grant said that Belleville hasn’t changed much in 32 years.

“Maybe the dynamics of the town have changed, but not much else,” Grant said. “It’s good for my Dad and my son to be able to come back with me and see all of this. Back then, we didn’t care about skin color or anything. We were just a bunch of knuckleheads who liked to hang out together and do kid things together. I have guys here that I’ve been friends with since I was 12 years old. We grew up together. Sports and winning helped to bring people together.”

Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”