An American Among Trolls

Julius Grant III

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By J.M Henriksen

This is Julius. Julius Grant. The third. He is a football player. Not one of those "I didn't get into college and don't have the talent to play pro so I'm going to be a star in Europe instead"-kind of guys. Julius is the real thing. He played college for division 1AA Western Carolina University. He was a four year starter at safety (both strong and free), where he gained national recognition. He was all-conference his 3rd and 4th year, and All-American his senior (4th) year. He was also chosen national player of the week twice while at WCU. Julius holds one record at WCU (longest interception for a TD: 99 yards), and is 2nd in both all-time tackles and assistant tackles.

Mr. Grant, aka "Julius The Man", aka "Pulius", is a native of Charleston, South Carolina. Currently working on a bachelors degree in Sports Management & Administration with a minor in coaching, he is also a player recognized as one of the best American imports in Europe. With a frame of 180 cms, 93 kgs (6 feet, 205 pounds) and blazing speed he slices through the defense from his HB position, or eats your receivers for lunch from his CB position. Julius played for the Vålerenga Trolls of Oslo in 1998, dominating against all the teams who faced him. His numbers speak for themselves; 563 yards rushing, 10,6 yards per rush, 7 TDs. You don't get those numbers by default. You earn them. Julius did. Even with a pulled hamstring.
This interview is a humble attempt in summing up the life of, the career of and the MAN Julius Grant III. Enjoy :-)

You came to Europe pretty soon after you first had contact with people here. How was the adjustment from living and playing in the States and living and playing in Europe ?

For me there was no real big adjustments that I needed to make when I came over. For some Americans who are more close-minded it might be a little harder to adapt to Europe. But if I had to say one thing, it would be getting used to coaching and playing. In the US we usually don't pay attention to our fellow teammates while we play. We concentrate on our jobs and that's it. Sometimes I feel my teams have asked me to do too much. The European players make the teams good or bad, 1 or 2 Americans can make a small difference but they can't win the whole season for a team. Some teams expect Americans to make superman plays every time the team is in trouble. That will work every now and then but not always.

What about cultural differences ?

The cultural difference was amazing. Out of all the places to go I went to Holland first where weed is legal and prostitution is legal and everyone is open with their body ! It took me about 2-3 weeks before I could get used to it. But the top-less beach thing still gets me every time. In a good way though. The biggest thing in France was fighting the language barrier. But that wasn't too bad. By the time I went to Norway, I felt I was already European myself so there was no adjusting needed.

1998 Stats - RB/DB Vålerenga Trolls

Rushing Games Attempts Yards Average TD's
  8 53 563 10,6 7
Receiving Games Receptions Yards Average TD's
  8 8 122 15,3 1

What advice would you give an American coming to Europe to play semi-pro for the first time ?

The advice I would give Americans coming over is to watch out and make sure you know what you are getting into. The league is still pretty new and some teams really don't know how to run their books and some teams don't make budgets, so they might try to do more than they really can. Also make sure you have one person paying you each payment time and hold that person responsible for paying you on time. Make sure you get some type of written agreement on the things the team is supposed to be offering. Talking about it on the phone sometime isn't good enough. You really have to look out for yourself. You don't have an agent that can help you out. Last but not least be honest with your team. If you barely played in high school and struggled to play in college this might not be for you. The teams expect quality players and if a person comes over who isn't quality then they hurt the rest of us who are trying to get picked up by teams

You have played for three different European teams in three countries with foreign languages. Was that a problem ?

The only problem I had with language was in France. Some of my coaches and maybe 20 of my teammates couldn't speak English ! I really didn't like that because it was hard to get close to some of the guys who were great people. I tried to learn the language but there just wasn't enough time. In every country I try to pick up a little bit of the language. If I don't learn a little bit the guys on the team will take advantage of me by teasing me in their language. It's really funny but it's even more funny when I tease them in their own language !

Playboy image ? Hmm...

Tell us a little about the coaches you've played for, the teams you've played for...

The first team I played for was the Rotterdam Trojans with a coach named Ray Landrau. He was an American coach who knew a lot about defense but really struggled trying to teach offense. My teammates were great, they did everything to make my stay there feel like home. At this time [1995-96] the Dutch league was starting to go down hill. Coach Landrau left after the first season which was in the fall. We won the Benelux championship and I got MVP for that season. We lost only 1 game and I didn't play in that game because I was injured. In the spring I met Stuart Betti, an American from California. Stuart was probably the smartest offensive mind I've ever seen. Stuart was also one of the best QB's to play in Europe. He coached the offense and I coached the defense for the first part of the season until we got in coach John (Don't remember his last name). Well, we won all of our games and qualified for the Euro-cup championship where we lost 7-0 in a great game. At the end of the season I went and played a game with the La Courneuve Flash of France. The game was an exhibition game against an American university. I got in contact with the Flash through a guy named Anothony Stitt, more about him later. I played the game and did rather well. I was looking for another team because the Dutch team wasn't treating me right. You would think that with me playing good over these 2 seasons the pay would get better, but it didn't. It stayed the same. They made me work in a weed bar 3 times a week and coach the juniors. This would have been ok, but the people who were working in the bar the same amount of time were getting payed more than me and they didn't have to play football and coach the juniors. Regardless of that I went back in the fall thinking things would get better but they didn't, and the league play was terrible. I scored 3 TDs on the next best team to us, and that was before halftime. At this time I was working at the bar, coaching the juniors and was the head coach of the seniors and still making the same amount of money. And getting payed late most of the time. Not to speak of the numerous times I had to move because they weren't paying their bills ! I eventually had to live with a teammate and his girlfriend. I hope I didn't bash Holland too bad but it was an individual team that I had these problems with and it really wasn't the teams' fault, it was the board of the Trojans' fault for not knowing what they were getting into.

Kicking some Viking butt !

So the next Spring I went to France where everything was different... They had a great budget. They had incentives on our play. Luckily, Stuart Betti came along with me for his last season playing. Stuart, Anothony Stitt and myself all stayed in the team appartment together. The Flash had a lot of luck because they had Stuart Betti, offensive brain, Anothony Stitt -called by many one of the best players to ever play in Europe- and myself. Our season was great. We won the French championship and the federation cup championship. And I must talk about the French talent. These were some of the best players I have seen in a long time. I want to name some of the players but I won't in fear of leaving somebody out. I had a great time in Paris thanks to my teammates, the team in whole and especially Anothony and Stuart who were like the big brothers I never had. Our appartment was always filled with laughter. In 1998 I went to Norway to play for the VIF Trolls. I played 2 games against the Trolls when I was in Holland, 1 in Rotterdam and 1 in Oslo. When I went to Oslo I fell in love with the city. At that point I knew I wanted to play there one day. Their team at the time was so much more structured than my Dutch team. They took the game serious, while me and my Dutch teammates took it as a joke, going out partying until 6 and 7 o'clock in the morning, getting up and then playing the game. Even though my team won both of the games, the Trolls had the type of structure I was looking for. When I went to Norway, the other American on the team was a guy named Jesse Steinfeldt; one of the funniest guys I have ever met. He was my roommate along with a Swedish guy named Christer [Gangstad]. We would laugh from the time we woke up in the morning until we went to sleep. The Trolls team had all the structure I thought it would. It was the first team I played on that had cheerleaders, and beautiful ones at that. And when I say beautiful all of them were beautiful ! With the Trolls I had a sub par season, I pulled a hamstring early in the season and could never recover from it. We made it to the Norwegian championship undefeated in the conference and lost to our rivals the OSI Vikings. Oh, I forgot to say; part of the reason for us having a good year was because of Jesse Steinfeldt and Coach Olof Sundberg who is now the head coach of the Trolls and a great addition to the Trolls team from Sweden. The players on the Trolls team were wonderful. They were always at the house, sometimes that was bad, but most of the time it was good. The Trolls believed in family and they are a very tight family. With the Trolls there were some small problems but they were internal and have now been worked out. They will go a long way this year with Coach Olof.

You have tried out for both NFL and CFL teams. What do you think you need to do to make it in one of these leagues ? And is that something you desire and aim to do ?

To make it in the leagues you have to be the best in the world at what you do. Also you have to play for the right school, have the right connections and be at the right place at the right time. But when it all comes down to it you have to be all of that. As far as me... I no longer want to play in the leagues. I want to be a superstar in the leagues I'm playing in now. I just got this focus after playing last season, so now my workouts and training show my desire to be all of that.

Interception return...again

Tell us a little about your year in Norway, the team, the league etc...

The league in Norway basically has 3 teams that compete for the title. I feel the league could be more competitive. It's hard to stay on the top of your game when you play one hard game then there's 3-4 easy games where your team doesn't have to work. I had a sub-par season but I still averaged over 10 yards a carry. I am very judgmental on myself so regardless of how well I play I will always be on myself to play better. When I stop doing that I need to stop playing.

Are you planning to return to the Trolls and Norway in '99, or have you made other plans ?

As of right now, I really don't know what I'm going to do or where I'm going to play. I'm up for any suggestions, just mail me: . Like I said, I'm just sitting and waiting.

You're back in the states working on a bachelor degree right now. In one year you'll be finished with that. What do you see for yourself in the future ?

Right now I'm majoring in Sports Management and Administration with a minor in Coaching. I look forward to eventually coaching football at the college level. I've been playing football since I was 7 years old. 19 years straight. I'm addicted to it and I must be around it.

Julius "The Man" Grant. Where does that nickname come from ? "Pulius" was a name obviously given to you in Norway...I'm not gonna bother you with that one...

I got the nickname Julius the man from our [Trolls] cheerleading coach in Norway, Kelly Kujava. She was helping me set up my e-mail account and she told me to pick a name that kind of shows my personality or my attitude. I'm not "the man" yet but thats what I'm striving to be. And as far as the name "Pulius" is concerned... That is a Norwegian inside joke, I will leave it to the imagination of others to try to figure it out.

Is there a network among the American players who play in Europe ? Do you find the opportunity to talk to fellow Americans on other teams after games ?

There is not too much networking. The main person who I network with is everyone's favorite ACTIONMAN Mohammad [Abdullah, DB/PR with Århus Tigers]. He keeps me on point on what's going on in Europe and who is looking for players. Hopefully one day you might see ACTIONMAN and JULIUS the man out on the field either battling amongst each other or even better; battling together to make this world a better place. After games I always try to go over and talk to the other Americans. Sometimes it is difficult because someone has just lost a game. But regardless win, lose or draw; after the game is over it's over. There is nothing you can do to bring it back. You have to get ready for the next game and don't hope you do better but do better. That's why I feel for the next team I play against. I lost my last game, so anger and frustration is building up over this off-season...

What is your best memory from playing in Europe ? And what is your worst ?

I have had so many great times in Europe but I think my best memory is when I was playing for the Flash and we won the French championship. It was the first time the guys had ever been to the championship and we won it. I really don't want to tell you my worst experience but I can say 3 things; it had me wanting to go home, it had me not wanting to play anymore, and it happened in Holland. But still I want to say I had a great time in Holland, it was just the management of the team that was really bad.

What are the main differences between the teams and the leagues of Holland, France & Norway ?

The difference in the leagues and the teams comes from organization of the teams. The more organized the teams and the more organized the leagues, the better the play. In France the teams and leagues are more organized. And they play more games. The more you play the better the players are allowed to get. When teams only play 6 or 7 games, the players can never get in the flow of the game and they don't get as good as they can really get.

Thats him, right there.

Tell us something most of us don't know about Julius Grant III, a side to you we won't imagine when we see you out there using receivers as lawnmowers...

This question is probably the hardest one to answer. A side of me that people don't see of me when they watch me play... The side that most people don't see of me is my humble side. I am really aggressive on the field and most of the time I'm over-confident. Sometimes that fades over into my own personal life. But in general I'm just like everybody else: I have fears and there are things about myself I would like to change. But unlike other people I have a fear of showing weakness. To me the football field is like a stage. I'm like an actor. Out there I can do whatever I want within the rules. I like the person I am, the person I want to be or even like some of the players I can't stand playing against. Sometimes that's all people playing against me see. And they try to say I'm like this or like that. But only my teammates and close friends really know who I am. Also I am really shy when it comes to meeting somebody I've never met before. All the guys on the team always think I'm a playboy because they might know girls who like me or whatever. But in reality meeting people out in clubs and on the streets really makes me nervous, unless I have close friends around like a security blanket.

The game is obviously in it's infancy here in Europe. What advice would you give the commissioners and league administrators throughout Europe ?

I think I could give some good advice to league offices and administration. This is basically my major here at my University [Western Carolina]. I would tell them to make sure everyone who is working in their organization has a job description written out so they know all of their responsibilities. Also I think every league needs to have a marketing department. American football is not marketed enough in the European countries. It's also not marketed enough by the teams. Some people in the cities that have American football don't even know it exists. The more your name is out there the easier it is to get sponsors and build up your team and make them more competitive.

Is there anything in particular you would like to say as a conclusion to this interview ?

I know I have already said way too much. But I would like to thank the 3 teams that have given me the opportunity to even do this interview and they would be the Rotterdam Trojans (which is under new management), the La Courneuve Flash and the Vålerenga Trolls. And also I like to thank all my old teammates for making me feel like Europe is my home, and making me yearn to come back and play as long as God is willing.

The Julius Grant III file

Team Year(s) Positions Honors
Statford High School 1987-91    
Western Carolina University 1991-95 FS/SS - Thrice conference player of the week
- Twice national player of the week
- Twice All-conference
- Div 1AA All-American
Rotterdam Trojans 1995-96 RB/DB - Benelux champ'ship MVP
- Nat'l champ'ship MVP
- EuroCup cham'ship MVP
La Courneuve Flash 1997 RB/DB  
Vålerenga Trolls 1998 RB/DB - Nat'l champ'ship MVP