NEW YORK – Eden Prairie High School football coach Mike Grant doesn’t travel out of state a lot.
“Usually, I go to Otter Tail County,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to pack for the cabin than for New York.”
Grant made his first trip to New York this week. He flew in on Thursday, attended “Wicked” with his wife on Thursday night, and on Friday was handed the Don Shula National High School Coach of the Year Award at the NFL’s last major news conference of Super Bowl week.
It was quite a week for the Grant family. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll kept lauding Bud Grant, the Vikings coaching legend, in news conferences, and on Friday Bud’s son held up a trophy for an international crew of photographers on a Lincoln Center stage.
“I got a chance to talk to Pete a minute ago,” Grant said after winning the award. “He said, ‘Yeah, I talked to your dad a few weeks ago.’ I knew Pete when he came to the Vikings as a rookie coach. He’d call me up all the time and say, ‘Where are we playing basketball today?’ He’d come over and we’d play basketball.
“I knew him then, and I knew him when he was at USC, because he recruited a couple of our players.”
Along with a heavy trophy, Grant was given two tickets to the Super Bowl. He and his wife will attend the game Sunday at MetLife Stadium. He hasn’t been to a Super Bowl in decades.
“Which of the losses do you want to talk about?” he said with a smile. “I was at the Oakland Super Bowl, Brent McClanahan’s fumble in Pasadena.
“And the coldest I’ve ever been in my life was when we lost in New Orleans. I was a senior in high school. We beat Armstrong 78-58 in basketball on Friday night. On Saturday, we had the biggest blizzard we’ve ever had in Minnesota. Everything froze out.
“So on Saturday, my dad got me on the Star Tribune jet going down to the game. I sat next to [sports columnist] Dick Cullum. We flew into New Orleans.
“I don’t know where I’m going, but they drove me to the stadium. That was before cellphones, so two days before they said, ‘Meet outside the stadium.’ So I’ve gone to two Super Bowls. It’s a much bigger deal now than it was then.”
During his speech, Grant reminisced about being a Vikings ball boy and having Fran Tarkenton teach him how to throw a pass.
With the award, Grant will receive $25,000, of which $15,000 will go to the Eden Prairie football program.
“I sent out an e-mail to our coaches and parents about this,” Grant said. “I really feel this is more about our run at Eden Prairie than it is just about me. Man, some of the kids we had when we first got to Eden Prairie are 40 years old.
“We’ve had such great kids and parents and coaches. This is their award as much as anyone’s.’’