The former Josey star played in college at Tennessee with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
He spent three seasons playing in the din of fan-demonium with the Seattle Seahawks.
And he concluded his career with a Super Bowl-winning season for the New York Giants in the stadium where the Broncos and Seahawks will convene in extreme winter conditions.
Not surprising, Grant believes this showdown has all the ingredients to be a classic.
“It’s well-balanced teams playing on both sides,” Grant said. “High-scoring offense as far as Peyton and a great defense as far as Seattle. But then you turn around and you have a Seattle offense that can put up points and a Denver defense that, when focused, can hold you to few points. I think it’s going to be a great back-and-forth game.”
Grant – who never missed a game at safety in 11 consecutive NFL seasons – certainly agrees with the notion that “defense wins championships.”
And he admires the way the Seahawks’ defense – including outspoken cornerback Richard Sherman – can be as intimidating as their “12th Man” environment.
“I thought I had a strong experience in high school when every last game (at Josey) was sold out and crowded,” Grant said. “Then when I got to Tennessee with 100,000-plus every home game, I thought I’m definitely there. When I got to the NFL in Carolina and Jacksonville it was cool. But when I got to Seattle, I had never had any experience like it. It’s all what people say it is plus more. Preseason games are crazy.”
While the Super Bowl is across the country in a neutral environment. Grant says that “12th Man” enthusiasm and support from the fan base carries with you.
“They make sure you don’t forget their support win or lose,” he said. “When we were losing we still had sold-out crowds. They are not a fair-weather type city in sports. They support you regardless up there and that keeps the motivation going.”
But the one thing Seattle doesn’t have is the guy Grant has believed in since the day he met him on his first day in college while moving into his dorm.
“Jamal Lewis and I were roommates,” Grant said. “While we were getting our room ready, Peyton Manning and Leonard Little came to see us our first day. Because we were No. 1 recruits, these juniors and seniors were coming to our room to let us know if we needed anything to come to them. So I knew from that point on that he was a special guy.”
That opinion hasn’t waned even when Manning has been criticized since he was at Tennessee for not winning “the big one” enough. Grant’s Volunteers won a BCS title the year after Manning left and Peyton’s one Super Bowl ring trails even his little brother,
Eli, who earned his second with the Giants along with Grant in 2012.
“He’s definitely won enough games but hasn’t won enough championships or playoffs,” Grant said. “Like it’s that easy to win Super Bowls and all that other stuff. But in my eyes I think he’s the best quarterback out there in the league. Bar none. He’s not just a good offensive quarterback but he’s a great leader. He makes his team a lot more focused and willing to play. So he’s the best quarterback out there, period.”
The outcome could go a long way in redefining Manning’s legacy.
“I think it will solidify a lot,” Grant said. “In his book, he came back to win Super Bowls. That’s what you play the game for. He battled injuries and came back and proved the critics wrong and got back to the big dance and ended up winning it. In eyes of critics, it would secure his spot as the best.”
Grant will spend the week in New York, doing some broadcasting work and attending some Super Bowl-related functions. He doesn’t believe the weather will be a factor with two teams used to playing in harsh conditions.
But if pressed to pick a favorite, his allegiance to Manning runs deeper than Seattle.
“I want to go with Peyton because of the friendship we have and it would shut a lot of the critics up,” he said. “But the other thing that scares me about that is their defense is hurt up. So I’m going with Denver but it’s not far in the back of my head that Seattle might win. But I just think Peyton will put up enough points to hold them off.”
And what if he had to stake cash on that pick?
“If I had to bet my money, I’d keep my money,” he said.
It’s the kind of toss-up Grant believes will make this Super Bowl memorable.
“We’ve had some great playoff games all the way up to the Super Bowl, so I definitely think this game will solidify a great postseason.”