Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

BenFred: Rising Coach Granderson Made a Difference before Gunfire Cut Him Down

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

BenFred: Rising Coach Granderson Made a Difference before Gunfire Cut Him Down

Article excerpt

They will never forget his smile.

Ask around about Jaz Granderson, and it's the first thing those in this grieving football community mention.

Granderson's beam of white lit up locker rooms. The contagious grin made Friday night lights look dim. It drew folks to him, like moths to a light. Especially the kids. You should have seen him with the kids.

The memory of that makes-you-feel-special-when-you-see-it smile cuts both ways today. One moment it eases the pain. The next instant it overwhelms with grief. They see it through their tears.

"It's a senseless act," former Lindenwood head coach Patrick Ross said Thursday, after he composed himself. "We lost somebody that was great for our community. Over nonsense."

In Monday morning's early hours Granderson became the latest victim of the city he wanted to help save. The 27-year-old local was a full-time assistant coach for the De Smet football team, a former Northern Iowa and Lindenwood defensive back, a one-time Post-Dispatch Super 30 recruit at Kirkwood whose first mention in the pages of this newspaper came when he raced down the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown.

He was a beloved son who never stopped calling his father "Daddy," a loyal teammate, a charismatic-yet-demanding coach and a budding mentor who paired big dreams with a relentless drive to make a difference.

"He was a shining star that got burnt out too soon," said former Lindenwood defensive coordinator Deoin Melvin.

A swath of the St. Louis football family is still in shock after a piece of its fabric was ripped away, and for what?

Before he died Granderson told a woman he was a victim of a carjacking, KMOV reported. Police responded to a report of a shooting and found him on the ground in a neighborhood along Interstate 55, unconscious and bleeding. An incident report mentions the sound of a car speeding off into the night.

Police could provide no new details Thursday. Already the tiresome blame game and political bickering is underway, another lost life in danger of being reduced to a statistic.

"I don't need the story," Granderson used to tell De Smet players who tried to turn a dropped pass or whiffed tackle into an excuse.

He deserves one, though. Here is a small part of the football legacy Granderson left behind.

It was Granderson who nudged De Smet football coach Robert Steeples to pursue coaching after the former Missouri cornerback's NFL dream lasted two games. The two crossed paths as high school recruits, and became friends during days spent coaching at offseason camps around town. Their playing careers started to wind down at the same time. Granderson had been a junior college force at William Rainey Harper College, a special teams contributor at Northern Iowa and a trusted starter at Lindenwood. He was all-in on becoming a coach. And so was Steeples after he spoke with Granderson. …

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