Jordan Grantham has never played in an all-star game--ever, at any level from little league to high school--which helps explain why the Potomac Falls High School graduate is so excited about Saturday's Super 44 High School All-Star football game.
Grantham is spending his summer waiting tables at a local restaurant, which has turned out to be an excellent way to promote the game. Every once in a while, a customer recognizes Grantham from articles or pictures that have run in the local paper, which chronicled his football career at Potomac Falls High School.
When that happens, Grantham is quick to give the customer details about the Super 44 game: It pits a team of graduated seniors from Northern Virginia high schools against a team from Maryland, and kickoff is 6 p.m. Saturday at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax.
Grantham--who will play defensive back--wants to build up his own personal cheering section, because he figures that's the best way to ensure he'll hear some applause.
"No one comes [to an all-star game] to watch the defense play. Coach has already told us that we're not going to get any glory," said Grantham, with a sigh. "He told us it's going to be an offensive game, and that people want to see touchdowns. That's fine, as long as they don't score on me."
Grantham is one of three Loudoun County residents playing in the seventh annual game, which used to be known as the Chesapeake Classic. Catholic University-bound Dan Evans, who played wide receiver for Paul VI, and Harvard-bound Carl Morris, a defensive back from Episcopal, are also on the Virginia team.
Grantham, who is considering playing for Montgomery College-Rockville, has been Potomac Falls's best and most visible player since it opened in the fall of 1997. It's rather fitting, therefore, that he is the first player from the school to be picked for the game.
"I feel like this is a big thing for the school and for Jordan," said Potomac Falls Coach Wes Driskill. "He's a very deserving person to play in this kind of game because of his unselfish attitude, the way he's worked hard and the way that he always put the team first. I'm happy for him."
In the Panthers' inaugural season, Grantham led the team on offense (he scored nine of the team's 12 touchdowns) and defense (team-high 70 solo tackles as a linebacker). Last fall, he was named first-team all-Concorde District as a running back after rushing for 781 yards on 98 carries. He also earned second-team all-district honors as a defensive back, his first year of playing the position.
"This past season, I grew a love for defense. It was all I wanted to play," Grantham said. "I think I was tired of getting beat up [as a running back], and I wanted to take my aggression out on the other team. I wanted to play strong safety [in the Super 44 game], because you don't really have a man to cover--you just go to the ball and destroy. But Coach has me playing as a cover man, and that's fine, too."
Nearly 200 players tried out for the Virginia team, according to McLean High School Coach Joe Muskett, the head coach of the Virginia squad. Grantham stood out among the defensive backs because of his size--5 feet 11, 201 pounds--speed and tremendous reactions.
"The only time a pass was completed on his side of the field was when Jordan stepped in front and picked it off. He breaks on the ball so well," Muskett said. "I don't think anyone caught the ball against him during tryouts."
Grantham is hoping he can continue that streak once the game begins. He already has mapped out what would be his ideal game, which would force the fans to notice a defensive player.
The plan: "Not get beat deep. Have a shutout--[meaning] no one catch the ball against me," Grantham said. "Make nine tackles, have two interceptions, one of those returned for a touchdown like 80 yards."
Why only one interception return for a touchdown and not two?
"I'm trying to be realistic here," Grantham said, laughing. "I'm trying to put a bit of reality in there."
CAPTION: Jordan Grantham, who was running back in high school, will play defensive back for Virginia all-stars. His goal in the game: two interceptions with one for touchdown.