Row the Boat

On the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 15, while surrounded by friends, family and coaches, Ellsworth senior Max Grand signed his NCAA Division 1 early signing day papers and made it official – next fall he will play for PJ Fleck and the Minnesota Gophers in the Big Ten.

It was a day of celebration for family, friends, coaches, and everyone who has ever gotten to know Grand as a player and a young man. His impact can’t be understated. Every chair in the gym on Wednesday morning was filled. Everyone wanted to see Grand sign his papers and make his dream a reality.

For Grand, Minnesota wasn’t a last-second decision or a choice made with haste. Instead, it’s been a goal that he’s been working toward dating back to his middle school years. Beginning around the age of seventh or eighth grade, Grand has been attending football camps at the University of Minnesota. They offer three camps per summer and while most kids only chose one to attend, Grand has attended all three ever since he was in middle school. For Grand, Minnesota isn’t just a school – it’s a major piece of his life.

Sometimes, life comes full circle. Some of those same Gophers coaches that Grand was asking to come to watch him play when he was in middle school, were in his living room less than a week ago as they discussed him potentially signing with Minnesota. It’s been a dream realized for Grand. He spoke about what it means to him to sign with the Gophers.

“I’ve been dreaming of doing something like this my whole life,” Grand said on signing day. “As it’s gotten closer to the moment, it’s become almost surreal. Talking to PJ (Fleck) this morning on Zoom and hearing all the claps of the coaches in the big signing room was kind of surreal. It means a lot for me to have all of my family, friends and teammates here to support me. I’m excited for the future. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

According to Susan Grand, Max’s mother, there were quite a few schools that expressed interest in Grand. It’s hard to imagine a single school that wouldn’t want a four-year varsity starter, a workhorse running back, and a player that nobody has a bad word to say about. In his Ellsworth career, Grand tallied 446 carries for 3,891 yards, including 50 rushing touchdowns. In addition to that, he was a weapon out of the backfield in the receiving game. Grand caught 18 passes for 315 yards and five touchdowns.

The aforementioned numbers set Grand apart from most backs in Wisconsin. Because of that, Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 schools all expressed interest in the Ellsworth running back. Susan Grand stated that whenever she would take Max Grand on a visit to a school, he would say that he enjoyed the visit, but that something was missing. As she would ask him what was missing, he wasn’t able to put

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On signing day at the Ellsworth High School, Max Grand was joined by his football coaches, Jason Janke (left), Rob Heller (right) and Sam Elling (back). Photo courtesy of Ellsworth Panthers Football

Max Grand and his mother, Susan Grand, were all smiles at his signing day at the Ellsworth High School on Wednesday, Dec. 15, where he signed his papers to play for the Minnesota Gophers next fall. Photo by Reagan Hoverman

December 21, 2021