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Florida recruit Will Grier searching for one last Davidson Day title

Scott Fowler is a national award-winning sports columnist for The Charlotte Observer.

DAVIDSON It is not true that Davidson Day senior Will Grier can do everything on a football field.

He throws the ball beautifully, yes. The All-American quarterback does that so well that the major colleges drooled all over him until he committed to Florida, where he plans to enroll in January.

He runs the ball better than you would expect, already rushing for 1,131 yards and 11 touchdowns in his senior season to go along with 3,453 yards and 53 TDs passing.

On the rare occasion that Davidson Day punts – the small private school has punted four times all season – he does that just fine.

But I have found his flaw. He can’t kick extra points worth a darn.

Out of necessity, Grier is also Davidson Day’s kicker. In Friday night’s game, I watched him miss two out of four extra points he attempted. One of those wasn’t blocked and still barely reached the crossbar. He has missed 14 of 44 extra points this season. Davidson Day doesn’t even attempt field goals.

“It’s pretty safe to say Florida is going to let me concentrate on quarterback and not use me as a place-kicker,” Grier said, smiling.

Grier has played against suspect competition for much of his high school career, putting up ridiculous numbers while directing the offense for his father, Davidson Day coach Chad Grier. In his most notable game, he threw for 10 touchdowns and 837 yards – the yardage total was an unofficial national record – in a 104-80 win in 2012.

The numbers he is used to posting are so skewed that Grier threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more in the game I watched – a 40-6 road win against Victory Christian on Friday night – then described the performance as “pretty bad.”

After watching Grier play in person, it’s easy to see why he had so many collegiate offers (and why a lot of schools still hope he reconsiders his Florida commitment, which Will Grier said he has no intention of doing unless something “life-changing” happens).

One way or another, Grier’s high school career is winding down. Davidson Day won state football titles at its level in 2011 and 2012 – its first two years of varsity football – and is three playoff games away from winning a third straight this season.

“I’m trying to enjoy my last few weeks of high school,” said Grier, who will graduate in December so he can enroll at Florida and participate in the Gators’ spring practices. “It feels like my freshman year was yesterday. But I’m excited to take the next step in my life.”

Davidson Day mostly plays other independent private schools – some of which have defensive linemen who are smaller than the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Grier.

“I know I’ve been at a private school where people are saying, ‘Y’all don’t play anybody,’” said Grier, ranked No.34 overall and the No. 2 “dual-threat” quarterback in ESPN’s list of the top 300 national recruits for the Class of 2014. “I’ve heard that whole thing for four years. So I’m ready to go test myself. I want to be able to play against the best, to play against SEC defenses. I think I’m ready for that opportunity. So let’s see.”

Grassroots football

Chad Grier coaches Davidson Day as a volunteer and has since 2010, when the school began with a junior varsity football program. He also juggles a full-time job – he is an account manager for a large data storage and software company based in Boston. Grier, 45, once was a standout high school quarterback at Charlotte Latin and then played in college at Richmond before transferring to East Carolina.

“I started at Richmond and if I had had any sense I should have just stayed there if I liked playing,” Grier said. “In my senior year, I split time with (future NFL quarterback) Jeff Blake, and as the year went on, there was a lot more Jeff and a lot less Chad. I think I set a record for most consecutive quarters wearing a baseball hat. I hope Will’s career turns out better.”

Davidson Day’s football program is very grassroots. The coach’s first office was a former electrical closet, and the one he’s in now isn’t much bigger. The team took two 15-passenger vans to games for awhile before a few more kids came out. Games draw a few hundred fans.

During my visit to the school, Chad Grier tried to talk a Davidson Day student in the lobby into playing for him. The coach already suits up close to half the school’s high school-aged boys on his team – the Patriots dress out 36 to 40 players per game. Most play offense and defense,, although Will Grier doesn’t.

Will Grier’s parents split up when he was young. Both have since remarried. At one time or another, he has lived with each parent. He lives with his father now.

“We’re routine freaks,” Chad Grier said. “We both come home from practice and typically watch ‘The Big Bang Theory’ together. Right now it’s almost like having a best friend around. It’s going to be really different when he’s gone.”

Because his parents live in different school districts, Grier could have gone to public high school at either East Lincoln or Lake Norman. He had attended SouthLake Christian for middle school (he was dunking a basketball toward the end) and repeated a portion of his sixth-grade year, his father said, which made him one of the oldest students in his class by a few months instead of one of the youngest.

Grier will turn 19 in April.

“I visited both East Lincoln and Lake Norman before high school, but I was hesitant,” Will Grier said. “We thought about looking into Charlotte Latin or Charlotte Country Day, but they seemed too far away. Then Dad found this place and we thought if we could get it going, it could be an option. I felt safer with him – I knew he was a good coach. And so that’s what we did.”

Two other Grier kids attend Davidson Day as well. Hayes, a seventh-grader, might one day be a quarterback for his father in high school. Nash, a sophomore, is the most well-known of all of the Grier brothers online. Nash has more than 2.1 million followers on Vine, where people post six-second looping videos using a Twitter-powered application.

Known for his comedy bits, “Vine-famous” Nash Grier recently appeared on “Good Morning America,” where he met Sylvester Stallone. He is now the 14th-most followed person in the world on Vine, according to rankzoo.com.

“I’m very used to being known as Nash’s brother,” Will Grier said.

’A commitment is a commitment’

Although Will Grier announced his intention to attend Florida 11 months ago, the mail and phone calls from recruiters haven’t stopped coming. Chad Grier estimates there are 2,500 pieces of unopened mail from colleges at home.

Grier can’t actually sign a piece of paper declaring him to be a scholarship player at Florida until February, a month after he plans to start spring classes in Gainesville. With the Gators (4-4) having lost three straight games and rumors flying about the job security of Florida coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease, you can bet the calls from other programs won’t stop coming until Grier’s commitment is signed and sealed. (Both Griers said Muschamp has told them he is “not going anywhere.”)

“People are like, ‘Oh, Muschamp has lost four games, he’s going to get fired,’” Will Grier said. “I’m not worried about any of that stuff. It would have to be a life-changing type of thing for me to not go there at this point. … A commitment is a commitment. If there’s a coaching change or something like that, obviously I’d talk to the new coach. … But as of now, I’m sticking with what I’ve got.”

North Carolina finished in a strong second place in Grier’s recruitment, he said. The Tar Heels ultimately lost out, Grier said, because he wanted to play in the SEC and wanted to attend a school where football was the clear No.1 sport.

For now, the Griers still have the playoffs for a last father-son hurrah in high school. No.1 seed Davidson Day (9-1 – the one loss came by a point to Charlotte Latin) will play three home games if it keeps winning, starting Friday against Cannon.

Then Will Grier will go off to college and Chad Grier will stay at the school. The coach said he has no intention of leaving with his son and added he would like to be at Davidson Day with his assistants for “another 20 years.”

“As a coach, I ought to be real sad about all this,” Chad Grier said, “and I am. But as a dad, I’m really dreading it.”

Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler
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