RELATIONSHIPS OF RESPECT
A FOOTBALL FAMILY: The Lees and the Grants have been terrific ambassadors for football and their passion for the sport not only spans the past, but also the present. From left, Brian Lee, John Lee, Chuck Grant, and Charlie Grant. Photo by Joe Gianni.
Lee-Grant Link: A Marvelous Football Tale
of 4 Men and their KP-Walpole Ties
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
The names Lee and Grant in the same sentence would strongly suggest that either Civil War trivia is about to start or that an American history lesson is about to begin.
The Lee-Grant connection in this feature isn’t about war and it isn’t about two generals discussing surrender terms at a small courthouse in Virginia.
But, if football whets your appetite, then get prepared to learn what the Lees and the Grants have achieved on the gridirons at Walpole High and King Philip Regional. And, get ready to learn about an intriguing relationship that links four men in an unusual but marvelous way.
Call it relationships of respect with football as the common denominator.
The story begins with John Lee, who took the coaching reins at Walpole High in 1968 and compiled an amazing record that spanned 25 seasons. Two other coaches play an integral role in the narrative — Lee’s son Brian and Chuck Grant, who played for John Lee and succeeded him as head coach. The story is still unfolding because Grant’s son (Charlie), an 18-year-old senior quarterback/receiver/safety, has several more games remaining at KP.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting and here’s where the dots get connected.
Charlie’s father, Chuck Grant, played wide receiver and safety for John Lee during the 1979 and 1980 seasons. Chuck, who’s currently the Millis High athletic director, later became an assistant coach for John, starting at age 19 while he was an undergraduate at Providence College. While working as an aide, Chuck became a mentor to John’s son, Brian Lee, who played for Walpole on its offensive and defensive lines and at linebacker.
When Brian, who was a Bay State League (BSL) and Boston Globe all-star, graduated, he enrolled at Bridgewater State, got his degree and eventually became an assistant coach at Walpole and Curry College. For seven years, he was an aide to Chuck, who had succeeded his father in 1993. Brian’s third stop was at KP, where he’s been the head coach for the last 16 years. His current starting QB is Chuck’s son, Charlie Grant.
John Lee, Brian Lee and Chuck Grant all have been ultra successful coaches, they’ve all won league championships and they’ve all directed their squads to Super Bowl titles.
John, who’s 88 and still resides in Walpole, was a legend and the numbers easily support that label. He coached the Rebels for 25 years and compiled a record of 211-32-7. His first season (1968) ended at 4-4-1, but for the next 24 campaigns Walpole High posted winning records.
John, who’s a native of Newton, retired from coaching in 1992 with the following statistics — six Super Bowl appearances, four Super Bowl championships, 11 BSL championships, one BSL co-championship and a winning percentage of 85.8.
Chuck Grant’s record at Walpole was 60-20 for a winning percentage of 75. He guided the Rebels to three Super Bowls and came away with two championships, beating Tewksbury and Lincoln-Sudbury. His teams won three BSL crowns.
Brian Lee’s record is 125-56 and his Warrior teams have been to three Super Bowls, winning two — against Reading and Lincoln-Sudbury. Brian has directed KP to three sectional crowns and five Hockomock League titles.
Feature stories in football usually are plentiful in November, probably because Thanksgiving Day still provides many memorable moments. This feature details the Lee-Grant link and what follows is how Chuck, Brian and Charlie view their relationships while emphasizing the respect that their links have created. Unfortunately, John was not available to participate.
Chuck was a three-sport athlete at Walpole. Besides football, he played baseball and hockey, excelling on the ice as the Rebels’ goalie. He was the BSL’s Most Valuable Player in hockey as a senior.
When he worked as an assistant to John, that’s when he learned the formula for success.
“Coach Lee’s first bit of advice was to know the rule book,’’ Chuck said. “I was shocked to hear that but he stressed that if you knew the rules thoroughly, you could have an advantage in a variety of situations. He also said to surround yourself with good people. Get those who want to try to outwork you and eventually want to take your job.’’
Now 57, Chuck calls his coach a “pillar in my life’’ and recalls how much John motivated him.
“He instilled a high level of confidence in me and he took risks with me that a father couldn’t,’’ Chuck said. “I understood that he was trying to make me better. John taught respect and accountability. I can only hope that Brian is as much of an influence on my son as his father was for me.’’
Chuck says that John’s teaching and his motivational skills were exceptional and that “I felt he was grooming me to succeed him.’’ And, that’s exactly what occurred.
Chuck’s relationship with Brian is also a strong bond. Brian was a water boy when Chuck played, so their relationship was building before Brian played football and long before Brian assisted Chuck.
“When Brian played for his dad, he was driven,’’ Chuck recalled. “He would get insulted if teammates didn’t meet his expectations. He grew up with the game, thanks to his father, so he’d try to rally pride. Early on, he knew where a one-on-one matchup could be won. He had a penchant for leadership and he took pride in what he did and how he played.’’
Now that Brian is coaching Chuck’s son, it would seem like their friendship could be affected. Not so, says Chuck, who sincerely emphasizes “it’s up to Brian to coach Charlie in whatever way it will benefit KP.’’
“We’re at a time where our relationship should never be impacted by decisions made that involve my son,’’ Chuck said. “Our relationship has nothing to do with how much Charlie plays or where he plays.’’
When a son has a father who coached football teams to 24 consecutive winning seasons, he’d better listen when advice is offered. And, that’s what Brian did. As Chuck said: “Brian grew up with the template for success.’’
“I knew what my dad expected of me and he treated me like any other player,’’ said Brian. “I had to be the hardest worker when I played for him. Accountability was drilled. The two most important things he taught were to possess a strong work ethic and he taught me that a coach’s success comes when he puts players in the right positions.’’
John also taught Brian that outworking opponents and being totally prepared are the keys to developing tradition. Three straight Super Bowl appearances for KP is proof enough that Brian, at age 49, has learned his lessons well.
When Brian coached as an aide to Chuck, he learned that relationships matter. Combining the rich gridiron philosophy he absorbed from his father with Chuck’s ability to inspire players, Brian had a solid formula to get results.
“Football is hard, and it’s inclusive not exclusive,’’ Brian said. “The only requirement at KP is to do the work and do what everyone else does to produce success. Players have to be willing to work.’’
Brian says that coaching Charlie for the second year is “refreshing.’’ Charlie started at quarterback last year and guided the team to a 4-3 record. His two-minute drive helped KP beat Franklin at the wire, enabling the Warriors to finish above .500.
“Charlie knows what a coach is looking for,’’ Brian said. “He’s mature and conscientious. He’s a quarterback who knows that if someone else can do his job more effectively, he won’t sulk if a change occurs. He won’t like it but he’ll work extra hard at wide receiver and safety.’’
Brian’s coaching philosophy is to have fun by winning. He also stresses that character counts. “Kids have a tendency to listen more when they’re winning,’’ he emphasized.
Charlie, who started playing football at age 8 at the Pop Warner level in Norfolk, has been surrounded by sharp coaches, and his father, Brian, and John head the list.
“My father has taught me some great life lessons,’’ Charlie said. “The most important one is how to be a problem-solver. His famous quote is ‘never be a problem-reporter, be a problem-solver.’ I’ve carried that with me my whole life. As far as football goes, he’s always drilled to respect my opponent. When I get a pregame talk or text from my dad before every game, both of those things are mentioned.’’
Charlie, at age 18, also knows that much of his dad’s wisdom comes from his time with John, and that Brian’s effect on him and the other KP players is tied to what Brian learned from his father.
“All three have different ways of coaching,’’ Charlie offered. “My father has coached sports and he’s coached me about life. He knows tough love, always being firm and truthful. He doesn’t coach me like he’s in charge athletically. He knows his boundaries and I rely on his advice, whether my dad knows it or not.’’
Charlie’s respect for Brian and what he’s achieved at KP is like a magnitude 10 on the Richter Scale.
“Coach Lee is a great leader who has a tremendous relationship with all the players,’’ Charlie noted. “He’s a superb motivator, able to get every ounce of effort out of us. Although he’s in charge, he defers to his assistants and lets them deal with their positions. He’s the centerpiece of KP football and its culture, and his emphasis is on a strong work ethic.’’
Charlie, a National Honor Society student who has a 3.6 GPA, is acutely aware of how fortunate he’s been to know John. The relationship dates back to elementary school. “I knew he was a legend, so I often asked him questions,’’ said Charlie, who’s helped KP compile a 5-1 record at Local Town Pages deadline. “I have the utmost respect for him. KP players, past and present, have heard about him from Brian and he means a lot to our program.’’
When the Lee-Grant relationship is mentioned, Charlie embraces what it is, what it means and why it’s important.
“All three have developed respectful relationships with players, the media and parents,’’ Charlie said. “And, if they met someone who didn’t know about their success in football, they’d keep that private. They don’t flaunt their success with those who don’t know their backgrounds.
“The relationships we all have are special. I’m a lucky kid to grow up and learn from them. They’ve taught me how to mature off the field and ultimately how to strive for success on the field.’’
And, when Charlie is asked about special treatment from Brian, he tells it like it is. “There’s no favoritism,’’ Charlie said. “Coach Lee is all about getting the job done, no matter who’s on the team. I’m just another football player.’’
Success is measured in a variety of ways and it often is linked to a variety of styles. The Lees and the Grants are dynamic in their approaches, their outlooks and their methods. They personify success.
A prime example of how meaningful the Lee-Grant relationship is can be found in a quote from Chuck on Brian’s son (J.T.), who at 14 is four years younger than Charlie.
Chuck said: “I hope Charlie will continue the tradition of passing the formula for success to J.T.’’
That’s a sign of respect, dignity and class. And, it’s those attributes that define the Lee-Grant relationship.