While he has only been playing football five years, Riverdale Country School senior Grant Schwartz, was recently recognized for his excellence on the gridiron.
In October, Schwartz was named a finalist for USA Football’s Heart of a Giant Award presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants. Schwartz and other students from the tri-state area, were chosen by their coaches for their commitment, teamwork, will, character and dedication.
Overall, there were six weekly finalists and five wild card finalists, and each received $1,000 for their high school’s football program.
“In all my years in football, both playing and coaching, Grant is by far the most selfless player I have ever encountered,” said his Coach Brendan Connolly who nominated him for the award. “He’s more than just having another coach on the field, he possesses the character that you wish every kid, both in and out of the game would have. The world would be a much better place if everyone had Grant’s mentality.
“Grant is undersized for the trenches to say the least. He’s 6’4, but only 170 pounds. He volunteered to play center because we needed one and he was willing to change positions and put the team’s need first. He works his tail off on his technique and never complains about size disparities or that he isn’t allowed to catch the ball anymore.”
Schwartz spoke with the Bronx Times about football and winning the award. Born and raised in Manhattan, he was never really into sports when he was younger. He was a chubby kid and preferred computers and programming. However, everything changed in eighth grade when a coach asked him to try out for the team. Football had never crossed his mind, previously.
“I was a little hesitant, but the coach insisted I come,” he said. “It was very different. I was gassed by the end of practice. I hadn’t really run like that in a long time.”
Not having much knowledge about the game, he always listened to his coach. While Schwartz was full of butterflies, he quickly saw the brotherhood the players have on the field and wanted to be part of it. The speed and physicality of the game was eye-opening, but he was hooked.
From that point on, his life changed.
“Emotionally I felt they fulfilled a part of something that was larger than myself,” he said. “As a younger kid I wasn’t particularly confident. I didn’t feel a part of something.”
Schwartz knew he was bigger than most kids, but now it was time to get in shape. He hit the weight room and worked out non-stop. He described the conditioning aspect of athletic competition as a “rude awakening” and was shocked to see that some kids were stronger than him. Assigned to play offensive line, his goal was to hit the defenders hard, keep them away from his quarterback and create holes for the running back.
“Coach took a lot of time out of practice to work with me individually,” he said.
Knowing many people had several more years of experience than him, Schwartz had to work twice as hard. So, he spent many hours watching film and learning the X’s and O’s of the game.
By sophomore year, he felt confident and helped lead the team to a one loss season and the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) semifinals.
“No one on our team is going to play college or the NFL, but what it really means is building a great family,” he said.
While the pandemic canceled the 2020 season, Schwartz was named a captain this year. He has come a long way from not knowing anything about the gridiron.
In reflecting on the Heart of a Giant Award, Schwartz said he is quite humbled and thanked Connolly for nominating him.
“It’s a huge honor,” he said. “This is a great way to finish off my high school career. I’m just proud of how far I’ve come.”
Reach Jason Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.