Coast Guard football is getting a familiar face in C.C. Grant

The moment Eugene Bizer saw the news posted on line regarding the Coast Guard Academy's appointment of C.C. Grant as its new head football coach, Bizer took a screen shot of it with his phone and texted it to last season's group chat for all the Bears' linebackers.

"They all said, 'No way! No way!'" Bizer, a junior, said of the excitement of the group which until now has had Grant as a position coach. "And then one of the seniors said, 'You guys are going to do a lot of conditioning now.' Connor Schmitt said that."

Grant, an assistant coach for 21 seasons under head coach Bill George, who retired following the Bears' final game of the 2019 season, has been Coast Guard's co-defensive coordinator for the last 15 seasons and charged with working with the linebackers in particular.

On Monday, he was named to replace George following a national search at the academy.

According to Bizer, who along with fellow junior John Barbera has been elected a co-captain for next year's team, the players see Grant as someone who dispenses "tough love," but does so fairly and with a purpose and respect befitting of coaching at a military academy.

"Honestly I'm super-excited for coach Grant. He's definitely one of my favorite coaches that I've ever had," Bizer said in a telephone interview this week from his home in The Woodlands, Texas. "Coach Grant, a lot of times, is very direct, but as linebackers we get to see him be more joking. But definitely when we need to know how to do something, he's very up front."

"We all believe in what coach Grant can do," junior defensive back Colby Coco said. "He kind of would give us a pregame prep speech with the whole defense; when he talks, everybody listens."

Part of the uniqueness of the Coast Guard football staff is its continuity.

When George arrived in 1999, he hired Grant and current offensive coordinator Ray LaForte, with the blessing of athletic director Ray Cieplik and director of physical education Jeff Cardinali, who asked that George bring in knowledgeable coaches who were also good men and had a background as physical eduction teachers.

Grant and LaForte have been here since, two of six coaches, including George, to have been on the staff for more than 20 years. George's 10-year-old daughter Lila, in fact, refers to Grant as "Uncle C.C."

Bizer said the genuine friendship among the coaches translates to football.

"It's a good thing for the coaches to have a good relationship with one another," Bizer said. "They know how to work with each other; that relays into the team, helps build a good relationship with the team."

George said Grant, who will relinquish his position as head baseball coach to become the boss in football, could coach anywhere in the nation at any level. He said the Coast Guard Academy has been lucky to retain Grant for all these years.

"I think C.C. is as knowledgeable as any coach I've been around, offense, defense, special teams," George said. "He understands the academy. I think he's the perfect fit for this academy. I think he'll do a tremendous job. I think he'll use the sport of football the same way I did. He knows the purpose of this place, to turn young people into grownups; the grownups who lead this place have a lot of responsibility."

"Just how he holds himself," Bizer said. "He's very respectful, always telling us the right thing to do, teaching us more than football in teaching us football. All the coaches here hold themselves to a higher standard. It's cool to see."

George, although he announced his retirement following the football season, will remain on the faculty at Coast Guard until the end of June. He said from now on he will defer to Grant as the Bears' new sheriff.

"Jason (Southard, Coast Guard sports information director) couldn't wait to get that picture off," George said with a laugh of his head shot on the Coast Guard football web site, which has been replaced with Grant's. "(C.C. and I) worked together. We're close friends. We're going to stay close friends. I'm going to walk away from the football side. We're going to have to talk about how big the cumulus clouds look today. I'm not the head coach anymore."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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