Paso Robles High School named former NFL player Larry Grant as its next head football coach Tuesday following unanimous approval by the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees.
The former linebacker who played for the San Francisco 49ers, among other teams, will replace longtime head coach Rich Schimke, who was removed from his coaching position in November following an incident involving a player.
“I’m excited to get around these kids and get around everybody else in the faculty and staff at Paso Robles,” Grant said in a phone interview with The Tribune on Wednesday. “For a long time this program has been in a great place. All I can really bring here is a lot more knowledge and my personality itself — my enthusiasm, my energy and a little bit more knowledge that they haven’t had here.”
Grant served as a defensive assistant coach at Clovis North High School last season before he was fired following a midseason 24-7 loss to Paso Robles at War Memorial Stadium.
“It just didn’t work out. It wasn’t the right fit,” Grant said of his departure. “It didn’t hurt me as a coach or in any kind of way. Fifteen people I sat in front of (when interviewing for the job at Paso Robles), they saw something in me that can be a benefit to the future of this program. And it was exactly what they are looking for.”
When reached by phone last week, Clovis North athletic director Coby Lindsey declined to answer questions about the circumstances of Grant’s departure from the school.
“I don’t want to get trapped into something,” Lindsey said before saying that Grant “is a good dude. The kids love him.”
“Clovis North is in my past, and the rest of my past is in the past, NFL and all that,” Grant said. “It comes with me, of course, but I’m more excited about what the future holds with the Paso Robles High School football team.”
Grant is originally from Sacramento, where he graduated from Foothill High School. He played football for the City College of San Francisco for two years and was named the 2005 National Player of the Year. He then earned a full scholarship to Ohio State University where he was named to the All-Academic Big Ten team twice and played in two national championship games.
Grant was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2008 and signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2010, where he started as a linebacker. He returned to the 49ers in 2011 and played in two NFC Championship Games and the 2013 Super Bowl.
“Coach Grant is someone who really has a heart for kids,” former 49ers head coach Mike Singletary said in a release from Paso Robles High School. “There’s a lot he can share with young people about life. He’s had some experiences that kids can benefit from, on and off the field. He was a tough, solid player whose desire to win and compete will carry over into coaching.”
Grant, who played a total of 68 games in the NFL, was suspended for four games in 2013 for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
“Failing a drug test is far out of my character and although I never knowingly took a performance enhancing drug, I take full responsibility for what goes in my body and more importantly for the embarrassment of a failed drug test,” Grant wrote in a 2013 statement.
The last time Grant played in the NFL was during a two-game stint with the Chicago Bears in 2013.
Paso Robles defensive coordinator Matt Carroll served as interim head coach for the final three games of the 2016 season following Schimke’s initial suspension. Paso Robles lost in the first round of the Division 3 CIF-Southern Section playoffs and finished with an 8-3 record. The school then began interviewing potential replacements in the following weeks.
“Through the interview process, we learned very quickly that Coach Grant brought a wealth of football knowledge to the table,” Paso Robles High School principal Eric Martinez said in the release. “What stood out the most to me was his high energy and passion for helping student-athletes succeed in the classroom, on the football field, and in their everyday lives.”
When The Tribune spoke to Grant on Wednesday afternoon, he was preparing to meet with students for the first time following a meeting with assistant coaches earlier in the week.
“I want to look into these kids’ eyes; hopefully these kids can take some of my energy from me, because I’m 100 miles per hour all day long,” Grant said, adding he wants to bring an increased level of intensity to practice.
Grant said when he meets with the students, he doesn’t plan to address Schimke’s departure after 17 years leading the Bearcats.
“I’m not going to address the past at all. I’m more interested in what the kids are doing today and tomorrow and for the weeks coming,” Grant said. “Before I got the job, I never asked anybody what happened last year or why the job opened. Whatever happened in the past is not a place for me to dig into. I’m here to change these kids’ lives.”