|Mammoth player John Grant Jr. (right) sits five points back of the NLL single-season record. (Amber Bracken/QMI Agency)
PETERBOROUGH, ONT. - John Grant Jr. feels like a new man this NLL season.
Figured by many, including himself at times, to be on the downside of his lacrosse career at age 37, the Peterborough Lakers and Colorado Mammoth star has a shot at NLL immortality Saturday.
At 48 goals, 62 assists and 110 points in 13 games, Grant sits five points back of the NLL single-season record 115 points set in 2001 by John Tavares. Grant has one regular season game left Saturday against the Swarm in Minnesota.
Fans who want to follow his pursuit of the record can watch the game at the Grant-owned Montreal House at 8 p.m.
Fresh off a community appearance with the Mammoth at a March Against Violence in Denver Wednesday, Grant told The Examiner two things have rejuvenated him.
One is the exuberance of his young teammates. The other is a revamped fitness regimen to restore weight and strength.
“I had a terrible season in my eyes last winter,” said Grant, who had 83 points each of his last two seasons after missing 2009 following his second reconstructive knee surgery.
“I heaped a lot of expectations on myself to come and rebuild the program in one year,” Grant said, of joining Colorado via trade from Rochester. “It didn’t work and I put a lot of blame on myself.”
Last year he played through back, shoulder and ankle injuries. Rather than rest he played for Canada’s world championship field lacrosse team and his most extensive summer schedule in years for the Lakers and his MLL field team.
“I wore myself out,” Grant said. “I lost 20 pounds, I got down to 200 pounds. I thought maybe it would help with my speed but you can’t build speed at 37.
“I dedicated my off-season and have been very strategic about putting the weight back on and getting some of the muscle back I lost. I worked real hard at the Wellness Centre in Peterborough while I was there and moved to Denver in early December to meet with my trainer and dedicate myself.”
The Mammoth are much improved at 11-4 and Grant says its fun to be a part turning a franchise around.
“I’m playing with a great group of kids,” Grant said.
“That makes things a lot easier when I’m passing the ball to a guy who is scoring at a 30 to 40% clip. That's what is going to put points on the board not so much me doing things I haven’t already been doing. Being a better team player and a leader is what I’m focused on.”
Grant was close to the record with 111 points in 2007. Tavares set the mark in only 14 games of a 16-game season and Grant has a chance to do the same after missing two games earlier in the year to injury. While winning championships is his only goal anymore, he says he’s thought about the record.
“I could say I don’t think about it but anybody who knows me knows that’s a lie,” said Grant, chuckling.
“It’s not so much important as it is validation that I feel I can still play this game at the level I want to. Most in the lacrosse world figured, after my injury, I was finished and that at 37 I didn’t have anything left.
“I’ve been traded two times in the last couple of years so if anything it’s validation I can compete at a high level. If I got the record and we were 4-12 it would mean absolutely nothing but it shows I’m helping my team.”
Grant admits he had doubts.
“I’m not a fool. I know I’m not physically able to do what I used to. That just means I had to find other ways to help my team. I look at J.T. who is 43 and still at the top of the league. It can be done.
“You just have to fine-tune your game and become smarter. I’m trying to become a stronger athlete mentally. I think by doing that it will help bridge the gap of what I don’t have physically. I think I’ve made a strong effort this season to be a mentor to these kids and be a lead-by-example guy.”