There are no generals involved in this story about the Lees and the Grants.
Just a bunch of hard-nosed football players and coaches.
When King Philip senior quarterback Charlie Grant takes the field Thursday for the Division 2 state championship against undefeated Catholic Memorial (Gillette Stadium, 8 p.m.), he’ll become the latest thread in an interwoven family history between two football-loving families.
“It’s really a very interesting connection . . .” said Chuck Grant, the athletic director at Millis High.
In the late 1970s, John Lee was already a decade into his legendary coaching career at Walpole, where he went 211-32-7 in 25 seasons, winning four Super Bowls and 11 Bay State League crowns.
During the 1978 Super Bowl-winning campaign, Lee had a spunky sophomore wide receiver and safety named Chuck Grant who cherished his head coach.
“Fathers hope that people like coach Lee come along and take risks with their sons that fathers can’t because they worry about damaging the relationship,” Grant recalled. “You hope someone takes your son out of his comfort zone and challenges him. That’s what coach Lee did with me.”
After a successful high school career, Grant graduated from Walpole in 1980, but returned as an assistant even before he graduated from Providence College.
“My earliest memories of Chuck are when I was a little kid kicking around the sidelines and being a water boy and he was one of those players I looked up to,” said John Lee’s son, Brian. “He would take time to throw the ball around with you and make you feel a part of the team.”
By 1989 the team was headed to another Super Bowl, with Brian playing linebacker and offensive line. Since Grant was the youngest coach on the elder Lee’s staff, he became a sounding board for many of the players on the team.
“He was that guy who we went to and talked to about things,” Brian Lee said. “He is just a great guy and a great coach, even back then.”
Meanwhile, Grant recognized the younger Lee exhibiting the requisite mind-set and demeanor required to be a coach.
“We brought him with us to a position camp we would attend and watching him I could see the passion was there,” Grant said. “As a player he was fundamentally as sound as they come.”
Brian Lee went on to play at Bridgewater State before returning to spend the 1992 season coaching under his dad, and alongside Grant.
“Chuck called and said there’s always a spot for you if you want it,” Brian Lee said. “He told me ‘Your dad was great to me, so you always have an opportunity here.’”
“I asked him if he’d given coaching any consideration and I told him I’d have him run the freshman team,” recalled Grant, who took over for John Lee as head coach in 1993 and went 60-20, winning two Super Bowls and three Bay State Conference titles before stepping down in 2001. “One thing led to another and you see where he is today.”
After coaching the Walpole freshman through the 1995 season, Lee was promoted to offensive line coach for the program’s run to the 1996 and 1997 Super Bowls. In 2005, he was named the head coach at King Philip, a job he has held for 17 years and, now, four Super Bowl trips. Grant and Brian Lee still talk weekly, with Lee often seeking advice on how to deal with players, parents or other challenges.
“Chuck has always been a mentor to me,” Brian Lee said. “He’s been through the head coaching issues and he knows the AD side of it. Whenever I have an issue, when I have a problem, not a lot of people want to hear about it or can understand it. Chuck always does.”
With Brian Lee settled at KP and Chuck Grant taking over AD duties at Millis, it seemed the connection might end there. But the Grants still lived in Norfolk, meaning Chuck’s son, Charlie, would eventually attend King Philip. Growing up, Charlie Grant heard countless tales about John Lee and the imprint he left on Chuck, who says John Lee was “one of the five pillar men of my life.”
“My dad was always telling me what it was like back then,” Charlie Grant said. “He just tried to transfer the philosophies and work ethic and what he learned from Coach Lee . . . My dad always gives so much credit to coach Lee as to where his success came from.”
Charlie first met John Lee at a Junior Warriors camp run by Brian Lee.
“John would pop in and check out the players,” Charlie Grant recalled. “My first year, Brian Lee pointed me out to him and said, ‘It’s Chuck’s son.’ I think I had met him earlier, but that was the first time being mature enough to appreciate it.”
By Charlie’s junior year, he had taken over as KP’s starting quarterback.
“It’s such a weird phenomenon,” Chuck Grant said of his son playing for a man he coached in high school and later alongside. “I can only say how much [Charlie] looked forward to playing for coach Lee and being a part of the KP program.”
In his two seasons, Grant has led the Warriors to a 13-5 record, including a 9-2 mark this fall and a Division 2 Super Bowl appearance. This season he has thrown 11 touchdown passes, run for four scores and caught two touchdowns.
“It’s been wonderful to watch,” Chuck Grant said. “They’ve not only become a better team in terms of bonding, but in terms of execution. Every week they’ve improved . . . To see where they are is a credit to coach Lee’s process.”
That process can trace its roots back to John Lee and the Walpole teams of the 1970s.
“Coach Lee handed us the template for success,” Chuck Grant said. “It’s as simple as outworking your opponent.”