WINDERMERE — Chris Granjean’s two biggest fans are thousands of miles away.
After most Windermere Prep home games, when the senior running back’s teammates are greeted by their parents down on the sideline, Granjean is patient.
He knows he will have to wait until he gets home to put together a highlight email or give his parents — who work for the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Africa — a call.
It can be tough at times, he acknowledges, but the talented ballcarrier for the undefeated Lakers said the work of his parents, Raymond and Marielle Granjean, inspires him. As he tells it, the adversity posed to him in not having his parents as easily accessible as the majority of his peers is something that has strengthened him.
“I guess it was hard, because my teammates — they always had their parents to be around them,” Granjean said. “But, it really helped me, with my parents working overseas, because I became more responsible. … It got me ready for the future, such as college.”
Granjean talks to his parents almost daily and, without fail, when he gets on with his mother, the conversation begins with a question; and it has nothing to do with football.
“My mom, she does not mess around with grades,” Granjean said. “Every time I talk to her, she is always asking about education and what’s going on with school … ‘How are you doing in class?’
“Then, it goes into football,” he said.
When the conversation with his parents turns toward the talented senior’s favorite sport — Granjean also plays for the Lakers’ varsity basketball program — there has certainly been plenty to talk about this fall.
Windermere Prep is 6-0 overall and 4-0 in its division of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference.
The Lakers aren’t just winning games, either.
Windermere Prep is defeating opponents by an average margin of 38.2 points per game. The Lakers — who will play their Homecoming/Senior Night Game against Bishop McLaughlin (1-6 overall, 0-4 in division) at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24, at Disney’s Wide World of Sports — will host a first-round contest in the SSAC’s Florida Bowl Series Playoffs.
Windermere Prep will take on Community School of Naples (7-1) at 4 p.m Oct. 31. The winner will advance to the semifinals on Nov. 7, with the SSAC Championship Game set for Nov. 15, at The Master’s Academy in Oviedo as the culmination of the Florida Bowl Series. Losing teams will enter a consolation bracket that also runs through Nov. 15.
Granjean has been pivotal to the Lakers’ success. Coach Jacob Doss, a former college quarterback for the University of Wyoming, likes to feature an offense that operates at breakneck speed and runs as many plays as possible.
Windermere Prep passes the ball plenty — standout junior quarterback Parker Davis has thrown for 1,142 yards this season and has a QB rating of 140.9 — but that attack is only as effective as it is because the threat of Granjean on the ground keeps defenses honest.
“He’s getting a lot of carries per game,” Doss said. “You see these air-raid offenses, and everyone thinks we’re throwing all the time.
“It’s kind of a misconception and it’s great … really, we’re a run-first team,” he said. “This kid, he can carry the ball three, four, five times in a row and bounce up and ask for it again.”
Granjean has rushed for 643 yards so far this season, averaging 8.4 yards per carry, and has 12 touchdowns to his credit. A dynamic threat, he also has 15 receptions and three touchdowns out of the backfield — and he plays defense, too.
But it’s Granjean’s field vision and ability to cut while in a full sprint that have made him an athlete that colleges such as Davidson, Colgate and Bucknell — all elite schools, academically — are interested in as an addition to their football programs next fall.
“He can make cuts that no one else can,” said Chris Bergin, an offensive lineman for the Lakers with whom Granjean and his younger brother, Timmy, lived for three years. “We have a bunch of running backs, but no one can make cuts up the middle like Chris can.”
Granjean and Doss had an important chat following the 2013 season.
In this conversation, Granjean relayed to his head coach that he intended to use football as a means to get into a great university. A good student with a 3.6 GPA and involvement in clubs around campus, Granjean aspires to one day be an athletic trainer or physical therapist.
Doss, who has coached the program at Windermere Prep for all five seasons it has fielded a varsity team, told his senior leader that that particular offseason would make all the difference.
“I told him, ‘If you want to be this elite player, and you want to go play college football, this summer is the most important summer of your life,’” Doss said. “It really resonated with him. And there were days where I, or my strength coach, wasn’t even here, and he still found a key to get in that weight room.”
Granjean plans on waiting until after this season concludes to make his choice of where to play collegiately.
“I think one of these schools, they are going to get a kid like Chris and he’s going to be their kick returner, punt returner, defensive back, he’s going to run the ball for them,” Doss said. “They’re going to get a huge steal.”
Wherever he decides to go, it will be the next step in a career that nearly didn’t get off the ground.
Upon settling in Florida as a fifth-grader after having lived in several cities domestically and abroad, Granjean went out for the middle-school football program when it was first introduced on campus — and he nearly quit.
“It was rough at first … but I got to love it,” Granjean said.“It really influenced my mindset (toward) toughness, mental toughness.”
There is a different vibe on the campus of Windermere Prep this fall.
By way of their win Monday against Santa Fe Catholic, the Lakers already have tied their own mark for wins in a season — and that’s even with an earlier game that was canceled because of inclimate weather and will not be made up. Of course, the Lakers aren’t done — there are playoffs. And for Granjean and other seniors who have been around the program for most of its existence, taking that next step is a fitting way to end their high-school careers.
“This program has come so far,” Granjean said. “This is the season that we’ve all been working for.”
How’s this for perspective?
How good are the Lakers this year, relative to Windermere Prep teams of years’ past? Here is a look at the Lakers’ record for each season since they fielded a varsity team for the first time in 2010.
*still four games to be played
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].