Once he has played his last snap in professional football, Deon Grant said he wants to make a career of helping inner-city communities.
He showed the charm and humility that would make that an ideal job for the Seattle Seahawks safety Thursday night at The Augusta Chronicle and WJBF NewsChannel6 All-Area Football Banquet, where he told the area's top football players: It's cool to be smart.
"Make sure you make it to school and be not just an athlete, but an academic athlete," said Grant, a Josey High graduate. "Make sure you get close as you can to the guy upstairs. And make sure you're prepared. Preparation is the main thing to show all the word can pay off."
Grant spoke Thursday night at the Augusta Marriott Hotel and Suites, where the banquet honored the Georgia, South Carolina and independent all-area teams, Ray Guy Award winner Matt Fodge and three inductees in the American Football Kicking Hall of Fame.
Grant presented the Deon Grant Award, given annually to the area's top football player, to Strom Thurmond senior Tra'ves Bush.
Bush, a senior linebacker, led the area in tackles (172) on the defense that gave up only eight points per game for the 12-1 Rebels.
"It meant a lot, that all my hard work had paid off," said Bush, who is being recruited by Presbyterian, Gardner-Webb and Newberry. "To have my name in the same sentence as Deon is something else."
After the banquet, the players swarmed Grant for autographs.
"The most important thing about people who make it big is they should never forget where they come from," said Laney defensive back Cameron Stallings, who was among the players honored. "From going to a school in the inner city like Deon ... we can relate to Deon."
The Jeep Commander Award, give to the area's top quarterback, went to Burke County junior Terrell Brigham. Brigham, a first-year starter who set seven school records and helped Burke County (8-4) to a second-round Class AAA playoff appearance.
South Aiken's Ben Donath was honored by the Greater Augusta Sports Council as the area's top high school punter.
The event was sponsored by Doctors Hospital, Jeep and the Greater Augusta Sports Council.
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.