PISCATAWAY, N.J. — In high school, Janarion Grant had a five-touchdown game and scored four different ways.
At Rutgers, the return specialist and wide receiver has had a hand in six touchdowns this season. He has run for three, scored on kickoff and punt returns and thrown for a touchdown. The only thing Grant hasn’t done yet is catch a TD.
That might be next when Rutgers (2-1) hosts Iowa on Saturday in their Big Ten openers.
“He’s awesome man. He’s electric,” Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano said. “That kid just keeps playing and playing very well. We count on him for a lot of big plays.”
Grant registered 154 total yards in the 37-28 win over New Mexico last weekend and increased his season total to 562, tops in the Big Ten Conference and fourth in the nation. His 4,158 career yards are fourth in Rutgers’ history and seventh highest among FBS players.
“Man, Janarion’s different,” halfback Robert Martin said. “I love going out there with him, competing with him. Even at practice man, he wants to win at everything he does. I like that because that’s how I am and just knowing that when he gets the ball in his hands, he can take it the distance.”
Grant had three touchdowns in Rutgers’ 52-14 win over Howard. But his fumble on a punt against New Mexico gave the Lobos their first touchdown. The senior made up for it with a 21-yard TD pass and 69-yard, go-ahead touchdown on a punt.
“When he touches the ball, you’re watching the (big) screen,” Rutgers defensive lineman Julian Pinnix-Odrick said. “We’re getting corrections on the sidelines, and (defensive line coach Shane) Burnham is like ‘look here, look here.’ When J-dog touches that ball you want to be watching, so you sneak a peek…especially if it’s a kickoff.”
Offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer’s power-spread offense relies heavily on playmakers. He’s hoping to find more players like the 5-foot-10, 180-pound speedster from Pasco High School in Trilby, Florida, who can handle so many different roles.
Grant had a hand in five touchdowns in a game as a high school senior — two rushing, one passing, one receiving and a 50-yard interception return for a score, according to the Rutgers’ website.
“You find a bunch of those guys and it’s a lot of fun,” Mehringer said. “But yeah, Janarion’s great. And Janarion is selfless, too. You look out on the perimeter and watch that kid block, he’s the same. The same intensity that he brings to running the ball, returning the ball, and passing the ball now, he brings to all phases of his game, including blocking.”
Grant has eight career kick return touchdowns, five on kickoffs and three on punts on special teams. The total ties for first in the nation for active career non-offensive touchdowns.
Iowa (2-1) will be looking for redemption after getting upset by North Dakota State 23-21 on a last-second field goal. Grant is aware his opportunities could dwindle as teams shy away from kicking in his direction.
“Yeah, it gets like that,” said Grant, who considers a game without a touchdown return a failure. “But I just have to keep my head up because I just have to be prepared that teams might try to kick it away from me.”