Gwinnett players on a ... Title Hunt
Ohio State defenders Grant, Heyward eye BCS title win over LSU

By Brandon Brigman

Staff Writer


Few players get a chance to win a national title.

When Ohio State takes on LSU in Monday's BCS National Championship Game, Buckeyes' linebacker Larry Grant will get his fourth shot.

The Norcross grad is 0-for-3 in national championship games, but hopes to end that streak in his final college football game.

"I'm excited just as the team is to have this opportunity," Grant said. "I hope this is the year. Just being a senior I want to go out with a championship."

While it's uncommon to get four chances to win a title, it's even rarer that Gwinnett County has three players in the game.

No. 1-ranked Ohio State also features Cameron Heyward, a Peachtree Ridge grad, while LSU has T-Bob Hebert, a Greater Atlanta Christian grad. The last Gwinnett County player to win a major college football national title was Norcross' Jeff Backus with Michigan in 1997. Former South Gwinnett player and current Grayson head coach Mickey Conn was on Alabama's 1992 title team.

While at Community College of San Francisco, Grant played for two junior college national titles and lost both. Last year he was a part of the Buckeyes' 41-14 loss to Florida in the BCS title game. So will this finally be the year for Grant?

"We think real highly of LSU on offense and defense. They have some great players and great coaches," Grant said.

"This is my fourth national title in a row, I have to get one."

At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Grant has the size to make the transition to the pros. He posted 45 tackles, five tackles for losses, two blocked kicks and one interception this season.

"That's my lifelong dream to play in the NFL and to be a family man," Grant said. "But right now I'm trying to stay away from the NFL stuff and focus on the game."

Ohio State is No. 1 in total defense thanks to Grant at linebacker and Heyward at defensive end.

Heyward, the son of the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, got his first start midway through the season against Kent State.

"Cameron is a beast. He's a young man only 18, 19 years old that doesn't know 100 percent," Grant said. "He's goes 150 percent all the time. Whether it's in practice or in games it carries over.

"He's had a lot of success this year and will continue to have a lot of success."

Heyward led Peachtree Ridge to a share of the Class AAAAA state championship in 2006. A standout player in football and basketball, Heyward's success has continued at the college level.

"Just mentally preparing each week has been a lot tougher," Heyward said. "There's so many stronger, faster guys you have to be ready to go every play. You can't take a play off."

The true freshman has 30 tackles, nine tackles for losses and 21/2 sacks. But even Heyward has been a little surprised by his impact this season.

"A lot of guys on the defensive line have helped me a lot just because I'm around them so much," Heyward said. "James (Laurinaitis) is the leader of the team and he's shown me some things."

Heyward and Hebert played together on the Duluth Wildcats youth football team before parting ways in high school. The two still keep in touch, especially since their teams will compete for the national title.

"I talked to T-Bob last week," Heyward said in early December. "Yeah there was a little trash talking, but T-Bob has always been a trash talker. I just kept my mouth shut."

Hebert, the son of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Bobby Hebert, was unavailable for an interview as LSU does not allow true freshmen to talk to the media.

As an offensive lineman, Hebert has put on about 15-20 pounds since graduating from GAC in 2007.

The true freshman is redshirting this season, so a matchup between Heyward and Hebert on the line won't happen.

When Heyward signed with Ohio State he expressed interest in playing basketball for the Buckeyes. Ohio State began its conference schedule on Thursday and Heyward has had little time to consider being a two-sport athlete.

"I've just been focused on football and haven't really thought about basketball," Heyward said.

Not everyone is as fortunate as Grant to get four shots at a title, so this might be Heyward's only chance.

"I'm very excited," Heyward said. "I want to take advantage of the opportunity."

SideBar: National Title

· What: BCS National Championship Game

· Who: LSU vs. Ohio State

· When: Monday, 8 p.m.

· Where: New Orleans

· TV: Fox