NEENAH — A performance for the ages.
Neenah running back Grant Dean rushed the ball 26 times for 282 yards and 5 touchdowns last Thursday. He also returned a kick 88 yards for a touchdown. Not a bad way for the junior to christen a brand new stadium and lift his team to a 49-37 victory over De Pere in the first game of the season. It was also his golden birthday.
“It was probably the best offensive performance I’ve seen since I’ve been at Neenah,” said Rockets head coach Steve Jung.
“It was really exciting,” Dean said.” It was my first game at running back ever so it was fun.”
Last year, Dean played a lot of wide receiver as the Rockets had one of the best running backs in the state in Jase Jenkins. The biggest thing Jenkins instilled on his replacement – work ethic. Dean was ready to take over the Neenah backfield.
“I was looking forward to it, but at the same time, I was texting him, I was like man, I miss you. I still wish you were out here with me,” Dean said.
Rockets head coach Steve Jung has known Dean since elementary school, his success comes as no surprise.
“He’s always played two grades above where he’s at really,” Jung said. “We knew he was going to be good because he’s always been electric in football and he’s always been that fast guy in track and field."
Jung and his coaching staff always knew the talent was there, but they wanted him to run more downhill instead of always bouncing plays outside and he’s embraced it.
“That took a little bit for me to learn,” Dean said. “I’m not going to lie. But when it did it really helped a lot and now it's showing, I guess.”
As with any great running back after career high performance they give a lot of credit to their O-Line.
“They’re the ones in front of me,” said Dean. “They’re who get me there, but all props to them.”
His head coach agrees, but it is Dean's talent that helped put him in the end zone.
“There were still a lot of plays that he had to make downfield and he turned some runs that should’ve been 5-yard gains into 30-yard gains,” said the Neenah head coach.
As for what makes Dean successful, according to his head coach he has a high football IQ, but also, it’s his conditioning from track field, where he also shines.
“That’s where he’s pretty special, not only is he fast – he’s fast when he’s tired. He can just keep on going and that's a great football skill,” said Jung.