FEATURE: Despite injury, Zion Granville gets opportunity to play football at Illinois State
HOUSTON - Zion Granville has been around sports his entire life.
His father Billy played football at Duke followed by spending five years with the Cincinnati Bengals and then one year with the Texans before calling it a career. With football playing such an integral part of his father's life it is no surprise that in the first grade Zion started his football career and played through middle school.
It was then that Zion went through some growing pains.
Due to the growing pains, playing football became unenjoyable, and decided then to play only basketball for the first three years of high school.
When the pandemic hit things changed.
AAU was postponed, live recruiting became non-existent, gyms were shuttered closed and even rims at parks were removed to prevent people from gathering to play. So, one day in May, JD Migl invited Granville out to play 7-on-7 football.
"I went and I fell in love with the sport," Granville said. "He had always been a brother to me, so I wanted to return the favor and decided to play football. The more I played football the more I loved it."
Being back in football and strengthening in the weight room - going from 176 to 205 pounds - Granville became a specimen at the defensive end position towering to 6-foot-6.
Fort Bend Christian Academy coach Jordan Black worked with him to become a ruthless pass rusher as a defensive end or outside linebacker with his combination of length and quickness.
"My two favorite go-to moves in basketball were my hesitation and spin move. When I got on the gridiron everything at the defensive end spot came naturally," Granville said. "It literally felt like I was playing basketball."
With so much raw talent and promise after not having played football for three years, Granville was anticipating a major senior year.
Unfortunately, it only lasted two-quarters of a scrimmage and one game before Granville's year was over, due to injury.
"I learned that nothing in life is promised except death," Granville said. "So whenever I play or workout, I do it with the most enthusiasm. I also learned that you need strong faith in God."
2021 6'6 Defensive End/WR Scrimmage(2 QRTs) & Game 1 Highlights pic.twitter.com/c0P6i0hZak
— Zion Granville (@chosenzi_one) November 28, 2020
That faith carried him through the rest of the fall. And despite not having a ton of tape on him or years of playing experience at the varsity level, Granville still received offers.
Abilene Christian, Illinois State, and a preferred walk-on opportunity from Texas came. Lamar, University of Houston, Fresno State, San Diego State, Nevada, Dartmouth, and Stephen F. Austin also showed interest.
In the end, Granville picked Illinois State University.
"I chose them because it was a full scholarship offer, best fit and they relentlessly recruited me," he said. "They want to invest in me long-term and they have a good track record of developing players. Also, I would have time to get stronger and develop through being redshirted. I had several phone and zoom meetings with the coaches and they loved my twitch, unique abilities, and potential as a pass rusher."
Having literally played almost zero high school football, getting an opportunity at the next level is "very humbling" Granville said and he is focused on winning and getting better every day at Illinois State.
Outside of football, Granville enjoys Star Wars, art, and design and still playing basketball and he wants to study political science, graphic design, or business at Illinois State.