After an unprecedented playoff run, Grace Community’s football program had another landmark occasion Wednesday.
Grant Childress became the first Cougar to earn a Division I football scholarship, signing a national letter of intent to play receiver at Louisiana Tech.
“I’m very honored to be the first Division I signee football player here,” said Childress, who fielded offers from Nevada, Texas State and Navy along with a preferred walk-on spot at West Virginia. “Hopefully more Division I signees will come out of this.”
Added Grace head coach Mike Maddox: “Usually the first one is the hardest one, then after that you start having a few more come in because they realize it can be done at a small school.”
Childress helped lead Grace to back-to-back nine-win seasons after the school had never won more than seven games prior. With 67 catches for 1,145 yards and nine touchdowns, Childress was key to the Cougars’ run to the TAPPS Division II state semifinals last year.
Childress said he liked the town, school, coaches and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s system at Louisiana Tech, located about three hours east on I-20 in Ruston, La.
“I went up there last weekend; I really liked it,” Childress said. “I loved it and I decided that’s where I wanted to be.”
Watching film with Franklin, Childress said the Bulldogs’ offense is comparable to that of Grace.
“(Franklin) has a system that’s very similar to ours,” Maddox said. “It will be a great fit for him. They’re going to present that opportunity for him to be successful.”
Childress said he hopes to compete for playing time as a freshman. Position coach Coby Gipson said he thinks Childress has the skills to compete at the next level.
“Grant has great feet — off the line of scrimmage he’s going to be really tough to press, he’s going to be really tough to cover,” Gipson said. “He makes very quick, decisive movements. He gives great head fakes. He’s just a very precise route runner. He’s a very good bad-ball receiver … He can make a quarterback look really good in a hurry.
“I think this is just a great day for our school, a great day for our program.”
Childress said he thinks LaTech is a program on the rise, much like the one he’s leaving behind at Grace. Through hard work — from the weight room to attending camps and combines — Childress helped the Cougars reach new heights and in doing so became the program’s first player recruited to college’s highest level.
“It was exciting but at times it could be frustrating,” Childress said of the recruiting process. “I guess it’s fair to say I’m glad it’s over, but I’m excited that I’ve made my choice.”