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Published: 9/22/2011

It's more than just athletics for Southview senior Gant

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Southview player Allen Gant cools off during a timeout in a game with St. Francis at the Glass Bowl, Friday, August 26, 2011. Southview player Allen Gant cools off during a timeout in a game with St. Francis at the Glass Bowl, Friday, August 26, 2011.
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Labeling Southview senior Allen Gant as merely an athlete would fall far short of the mark.

Gant excels at three high school sports (football, basketball and track) and is on pace to earn 12 varsity letters. But he also has played the drums and piano since age 5.

Beyond the athletics, the musical interests, and his religious faith, Gant also manages to strike a balance academically, carrying a 3.1 grade-point average.

"When I was a little boy I felt like I wanted to be like a super person, and do everything I could possible do," Gant said.

"You always want to be a well-rounded individual and you could tell early on, when Allen was just a little kid, that he had some special talent," said Tony Gant, Allen's father. "He was very inquisitive and he was smart, and sports were just in his genes.

"I just wanted him to be the best young man that he could be. Teaching and coaching him has always been easy. He's always been a quick learner, and he's just been a joy to have as a son."

Gant is a 6-foot-1, 210-pound safety and wide receiver who has committed to play at Michigan. He has been timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash and can bench press 285 pounds for 10 repetitions.

As a junior he made 37 tackles, had three interceptions for the 10-1 Cougars and was named Division I all-district first team on defense. He also had 21 receptions for 413 yards. In basketball last season he averaged 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds and was named to the All-NLL first team and the D-I all-district third team.

This season Gant has five catches for 55 yards and scored one touchdown and has made 10 tackles.

"The best thing about him is how good a kid he is," Southview football coach Jim Mayzes said. "Since he came in here as a freshman he's always had the right attitude. He doesn't let anybody outwork him. Even during basketball season he's full go in the weight room."

Family tree

St. Francis player Michael Wagner, 30, tackles  Southview player Allen Gant, 14, during the first quarter at the Glass Bowl, Friday, August 26, 2011. St. Francis player Michael Wagner, 30, tackles Southview player Allen Gant, 14, during the first quarter at the Glass Bowl, Friday, August 26, 2011.
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Success in sports can often be linked to a blend of good genes and hard work, and Allen Gant weighs in well on both counts. But he seems to have an abundance of the former.

His father was a three-sport star (football, basketball, track) at Fremont Ross, then took his football talents to the University of Michigan, where he started 35 games (1982-86).

Maternal grandfather Chet Trail starred in basketball and baseball at Libbey (1962 graduate) before signing with the New York Yankees. He spent nine seasons in professional baseball, including six seasons in the International League with the Yankees' and Baltimore Orioles' organizations.

"Following my dad and my grandpa, I wanted to be one of the greatest just like them," Allen said. "My dad played at Michigan, and my grandpa played with the Yankees and Orioles [Triple-A teams].

"I had some big footsteps to follow. Ever since my freshman year that's been in the back of my mind. I wanted to continue to get better each day. They have helped me develop into the athlete I am, and into the person I am now."

On the family periphery, Chet Trail's older sister was once married to the father of former Fremont Ross and Michigan star Charles Woodson, who last season helped the Green Bay Packers win a Super Bowl.

Further, Allen Gant's aunt (sister of his mother, Tiffani McClain) is married to Shawn Simms, a former Bowling Green State University football player and a college assistant coach for more than 20 years, including stops at Toledo and Ohio State. Simms also happens to be Charles Woodson's half-brother.

Self starter

Allen Gant of Southview makes a tackle against St. Francis. Allen Gant of Southview makes a tackle against St. Francis.
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Gant was a freshman starter on Southview's 15-0, Division II state championship football team. His right-place-at-the-right-time touchdown catch off a deflection on the final play of the first half ultimately proved crucial in the Cougars' 29-25 victory over defending champion Cincinnati Anderson.

Also as a freshman, Gant started on Southview's 20-2 Northern Lakes League championship basketball team, and for the last two seasons has been the Cougars' top player.

In the spring he will earn his fourth letter in track and field, where he is a rare blend -- a discus thrower and shot putter who also runs sprint relays.

"The drive really comes from Allen," Tony Gant said. "I had a certain type of drive, but what he does -- lifting weights and eating healthy and drinking a gallon of water a day -- I never did that.

"I was a 6-foot, 185-pound kid who never lifted a weight in my life until I got to Michigan. He's in the weight room six days a week on his own. He motivates himself."

"Allen's always had a good work ethic, even as a youngster," Chet Trail said. "You never had to do too much to get him to practice. I wish I could take some credit for [his motivation], but Allen is a self-starter."

Music man

When Allen Gant was 3 years old he had already developed a feel for the beat of music, at first using his hands and the furniture at his grandparents' house (Chet and Donna Trail) as drums. By 4 he was practicing on real drums, and a year later first tried them out for an audience with the music group at his church, Grace Temple in Central Toledo.

"It was his grandma that kind of pushed him toward the music," Tony Gant said. "Allen's been playing piano and drums since he was about 4 years old.

"Initially grandma was teaching him how to play piano and then he took lessons. What it shows is that you have the capability of learning things."

Allen is a regular on the drums at Grace Temple alongside his stepfather, Tom McClain, the congregation's music director and piano player.

"I took lessons for about five years," Allen said, "and then sports came along. But I'm still focusing on playing my instruments and helping out at church whenever they need it."

"Practice makes perfect. Playing the drums, I didn't have to take lessons because I was able to hear it and just play it. With the piano, I actually had to practice before I became good at it." He said his approach to music carried over to his athletic pursuits.

"That's how I take football now," the three-time All-Northern Lakes League football first-teamer said. "To get better, I knew I had to practice at it. Sometimes I might be tired, or my body is sore. But in the back of mind I think, 'I need to do this because I want to get better and continue at the next level.' "

OSU or UM?

As Gant went through the football recruiting process the last couple years, two college programs eventually emerged as his frontrunners. One, of course, was Michigan. The other, perhaps surprisingly, was Ohio State.

"Initially I just wanted him to go through the [recruiting] process and enjoy it," Tony Gant said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to meet some of college football's greatest coaches. I wanted him to travel and meet everyone, so I didn't push him toward Michigan. I need a happy son in college. I want him to get good grades, play football and enjoy the environment."

As the finish line grew closer, Tony Gant couldn't resist a little nudge.

"Coming into his senior year, it was down to Michigan and Ohio State, and once Michigan had the new regime up there with [coach] Brady Hoke, that's when I really introduced Allen to Michigan football," Tony said. "It took off from there."

"I narrowed it down to Ohio State and Michigan back in January," Allen said, "and once Michigan offered me, in the back of my mind I was thinking, 'How could I not go to Michigan and follow my dad?' "

That decision may have made Tony happy, but another family member would have loved to see his grandson in scarlet and gray.

"I've always been an Ohio State fan," said Chet Trail, who was recruited by OSU for basketball while at Libbey. "I'm trying to get converted now. It might take a year, but I'll switch over. We hope that Michigan will be a great experience for him."

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com or 419-724-6461.



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