Deon Grant proved it’s never too late to go out on top.
Eighteen months after defending his last pass to help stop a Hail Mary in Super Bowl XLVI, the former Josey star announced his official retirement from the NFL on Wednesday – ending his 11-year pro career the way he wanted as a New York Giant.
“My mind was made up last year and I don’t have any regrets,” said Grant, who turned down several offers to play with other teams last season. “I’m going out on my own terms, healthy. And I can say my last year was a Super Bowl year. A lot of people can’t go out that way.”
Grant was drafted out of Tennessee by the Carolina Panthers in 2000 and suffered a season-ending broken hip in his first training camp. But after coming back healthy in 2001, he started at safety all 180 consecutive regular-season and playoff games of his career with four different teams – Carolina, Jacksonville, Seattle and New York. He competed in two Super Bowls, barely losing to the New England Patriots with the Panthers in 2004 before beating the Patriots with the Giants in 2011 season.
“It was always in my mind that once I win a Super Bowl – especially after it took a decade for me to get back to it – once I get it again I’m done,” he said.
That Super Bowl XLVI ring was added to his 1998 BCS Championship with Tennessee and his 1995 Class AAA state championship with Josey.
“I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish,” Grant said of his NFL career. “All the experience that I had from the injury on Day 1, to the veterans I played with when I was a young guy to the experience I got that I could teach to other young guys, the games, competition, everything – I can say that I got everything that I ever wanted out of the NFL. That’s what makes it so comfortable and satisfying for me as I retire.”
Grant specifically wanted to retire a Giant because they gave him another chance late in his career despite Grant choosing Seattle over New York in 2007.
“When I became a free agent again after Seattle, the Giants were the first ones to call and said they still want me,” he said. “That to me spoke volumes of the organization. They showed they were still loyal to me even though I hadn’t picked them. It’s only right that I become loyal to them. I had a great two years with them. Came in as a leader and finished as a leader. Why not retire with the team that took a chance on me in the second and the third go-round?”
Former Giants teammates took time between practice sessions to call him and congratulate him on
And Giants coach Tom Coughlin offered praise for his former safety and said he was always welcome in Giants Stadium.
“He did a great job when he was here,” Coughlin said. “Mr. Versatility. Played (some) linebacker (as a third safety), played back in the secondary. We had a package basically designed to get him and others on the field at the same time and he responded very well.
“Very smart player. A guy who can direct traffic, the guys respected him. He had an ability to recognize when things weren’t championship quality. Guys respected him for that. I look forward to seeing Deon again and see if we can get him in here and talk to the team.”
That’s fine with Grant: “I want to be a Giant for the rest of my life.”
What he’ll do with the rest of his life isn’t entirely determined. Many of Grant’s friends and associates have suggested he pursue a career in television commentary, and his agent is working on some possible opportunities.
But the 34-year-old Grant believes his post-football talents might lay in giving back to the game and communities that helped him. His Grant D Knowledge Foundation supports extra-curricular activities in inner cities and also plays host to an eight-week mentoring programs for boys and girls known as G.R.A.N.T. – Giving Respect And Nurturing Thought.
“My true gift is working with the younger generation and working with kids,” he said. “My foundation is up in New York, Augusta and Atlanta, so I will be doing a lot of things with that.”
Grant stopped by his alma mater in Augusta last week and surprised the Josey football team during preseason two-a-days by putting on cleats and showing them a few pointers he perfected as a champion at the high school, collegiate and professional levels.
“I’ll definitely try to get back to Augusta as much as I can and help out,” he said.