When Rob Grande was named the head football coach at Ferrum College, positive results were virtually instantaneous.

It turns out the Panthers have not been the only beneficiaries.

While the new coach has Ferrum off to a 2-1 start including a season-opening victory over Emory & Henry, another Grande has made a name for himself in the high school ranks at Roanoke Catholic.

Sean Grande, the eldest of the coach’s three sons, is a junior linebacker at Catholic, where he is the third-leading tackler for the 3-1 Celtics heading into Friday’s home game against Virginia Episcopal.

Standing 5 feet, 7 inches and weighing just 153 pounds, Grande has made 24 tackles in four games despite playing the last two with a cast protecting his left wrist.

“He knows a lot about the game, but he doesn’t carry that air with him when he comes out here,” Catholic coach Bob Price said. “He has a lot of fun in practice. About the only time I’ve seen him serious is in the games.

“I think every team needs a spark plug. He’s just a kid that’s full of energy.”

The 16-year-old Grande seems to have an endless supply, even though he leaves his home in Franklin County every weekday at 7:10 a.m. for a long ride to school in Roanoke, either with his father or grandfather at the wheel.

Not yet possessing a driver’s license, he usually catches a ride home after practice with star running back Jemel Tyree, who also lives in Franklin County.

When the family moved to Ferrum from Washington County, where Rob Grande spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach at Emory & Henry, the plan was for Sean to attend Franklin County High School.

Grande enrolled at Franklin County and attended some offseason workouts, but he could not obtain the class schedule he needed based on his transcript from John Battle High.

He said he considered attending Cave Spring before electing to pay tuition at Roanoke Catholic.

“It was quite frustrating to be honest,” Rob Grande said of his son’s travails.

“Roanoke Catholic was a good fit. It was a direction we weren’t expecting to go, but thankfully we’ve had some good support and were able to get him there.”

The younger Grande’s enthusiasm for football not only has earned him a starting job, it has gained him two nicknames from Price’s storehouse of monikers.

First came “Grandpa,” seemingly because Sean bears a resemblance to the character Eddie Munster in the old television show, “The Munsters.”

Now Grande’s nickname is “Batman.”


“I live in a cave and I’m crazy,” he said. “No, I don’t know why Coach Price calls me that. I think maybe I told him I lived in the unfinished basement of our house.”

Also in that home are two younger brothers and Grande’s mother, Penny, who is a teacher at Bassett High School.

It was the scene of quite a celebration three weeks ago after Ferrum scored a season-opening 39-38 victory over Emory & Henry on a touchdown and two-point conversion with seven seconds left in the game.

Rob Grande applied for the head coaching position with the Wasps after serving under Don Montgomery, but the job went to former Virginia Tech and James Madison assistant Curt Newsome, an E&H alumnus.

The elder Grande stayed in Emory for two more seasons before accepting the job at Ferrum.

Don’t think Sean Grande didn’t take note of the postgame handshake between Rob Grande and his former boss.

“It was a fitting ending to the summer we had moving up here, and all the things my dad went through leaving there,” he said. “It was a fantastic moment.

“There was a point when I thought he’d get the head coaching job at Emory. When Montgomery left, my dad was in line to take his spot. He stuck through it. He did it for the players. He loved those kids.”

Sean played JV football in 2015 at John Battle. While his switch to Roanoke Catholic allowed him to play in the same school colors — green and gold — it did require a few other wardrobe alterations.

At home, no more blue and gold E&H gear.

“I have a bin of Emory stuff,” he said. “I’m not allowed to wear it.”

At school, it’s Catholic’s mandated dress code of khakis with a dress shirt.

“I used to wear flip-flops to school at John Battle,” he said. “Now I think they’d cut my feet off for that here.”

Grande has a coach at both places.

Price, a 14-year veteran who led Catholic to the 2014 VIS Division III championship and a runner-up finish last year, is No. 1 on the pecking order.

Because Rob Grande’s job already has required him to miss two of his son’s games, Price provides video to the Ferrum coach.

“I try to be a dad,” Rob Grande said. “I try to pick him up when things don’t go well and encourage him when things go his way. I just try to give him some insight to the game without being overbearing.”

How long will those one-on-one sessions last?

“I don’t think my dad’s going to recruit me,” Sean laughed. “He’s probably going to get me to move out before he keeps me in-house.”

Rob Grande played college football as an undersized defensive back and place-kicker at Division III Salisbury State in Maryland.

“I always think the more active you are in college and the more engaged you are in school, the better experience you’re going to have,” he said.

“I was not a human highlight reel coming out of high school myself, but being able to play in college and be part of a team, it meant a lot to me. That experience superseded any lack of talent I had.”

Rob Grande doesn’t need to look in a mirror to see his reflection. It wears jersey No. 28 for Roanoke Catholic.

“Sean is a great teammate,” he said. “Guys like that make your team better. There’s many different roles that kids have.

“I’m proud to see him play a sport that’s meant so much to me growing up, to the point where I’ve made it my career.

“Winning and losing’s not a guarantee, but getting prepared and the friendships, the relationships and the accountability that it brings about in young men is something I’m glad he’s experiencing.”

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