John Grant Jr., one of the greatest players in National Lacrosse League and Rochester Knighthawks history, announced his retirement Monday.
“I love my family, and I love lacrosse,” said the 42-year-old Grant. “The game has given so much to me. It’s bittersweet to accept that my playing career is over, but I can retire knowing that I’ve given the sport and the people who support it everything I had.
“Thank you to the Rochester Knighthawks for drafting me, and to the Colorado Mammoth for keeping me in the game into my 40s. I’m unbelievably lucky and eternally grateful for having the chance to live out my dream as a professional lacrosse player.”
Over 17 seasons, Grant played for just two teams, the Knighthawks and the Mammoth. In 238 career games, “Junior” notched the second most goals (668) and points (1,446), and the fifth most assists (778) in NLL history. His Hall of Fame credentials also include nine All-Pro selections, two NLL MVP awards, one championship game MVP, and one Champion’s Cup.
“I had the ultimate pleasure of playing with Junior for a long time. Having a front row seat to watching and being a part of his lacrosse wizardry was amazing,” said former Knighthawks teammate Shawn Williams. “‘Junes’ was not only a game changer; he was a sport changer, inspiring many to play with creativity and pizzazz.
“Junior’s love for the game was contagious. The game is definitely going to miss No. 24. It was an unbelievable honor to suit up and go to battle with you, Junes. Thanks for the memories and congrats on your illustrious career, brother.”
Grant, the son of lacrosse legend John Grant Sr., broke into the NLL with the Knighthawks after being selected first overall in the 1999 NLL Entry Draft. As a rookie, the University of Delaware product showed the fans a sign of things to come as he led the Knighthawks in goals, assists and points. He was honored with an All-Rookie selection after powering Rochester to the NLL Finals.
The Peterborough, Ontario native spent 11 years in Rochester, playing in 10 seasons with the teal and purple. Three times he led the Knighthawks to the NLL Finals and in 2007 he helped deliver the franchise’s second Champion’s Cup.
In the championship game, he scored three goals and finished with a team-best eight points to earn Championship Game MVP honors. It was also Grant’s overtime game-winner against Buffalo in the East Division Semifinals that propelled the Knighthawks into the title game. The Knighthawks completed the year with a single-season league record 15 straight wins.
Grant also made history that season. Not only was he the first Knighthawk to lead the league in points, but he was the first Rochester player to win the NLL’s Most Valuable Player award. The forward capped off the year by winning the Democrat & Chronicle Rochester Pro Athlete of the Year award.
“He won everywhere he played,” said Knighthawks assistant coach Paul Day. “I had the pleasure to work with him at the start of his career and then in his last season with the Peterborough Lakers. He is one of the best players to ever play the game.”
Grant departed for Colorado on October 27, 2010, following a blockbuster deal that involved four players and four draft picks. He left as a seven-time NLL All-Pro, a four-time Team MVP and a three-time community service award winner. He still ranks first in team history in goals (433) and points (894), and second in assists (461).
Grant has fond memories of his on-floor accomplishments, but also of his connection to the community. John and his wife, Raygen, and daughter, Gabrayel, lived in the Flower City and created lasting friendships with the fans.
“The people of Rochester live and breathe the Knighthawks,” he said. “The Krew and all those crazy fans. We made that place home and we loved it. It felt like when you were playing games there, the fans were going through those games with you. Everyone was in it together.
“There was never a separation with us and the organization or us and the fans. We were one giant group. That’s what you get with a small market organization. It’s a community team and I loved every minute of it.”