Player Profile: Jensen embodies Southside’s winning mindset

Published 2:35 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2017

HERTFORD — Few others embody Southside’s culture like Grant Jensen. Head coach Jeff Carrow’s “next man up“ mantra has been the driving force in the Seahawks making it to consecutive regional championships. With a 61-0 shellacking of Perquimans last week, they have improved to 3-0 and seem to once again be one of the top 1-A teams in the east.

Early in the summer, Jensen competed for the starting quarterback role with junior Will Warren. The coaching staff opted to go with Warren, who was coming off of a successful year at the junior-varsity level, over Jensen. Instead of sulking over the decision, Jensen proved himself to be a must-have player in the secondary.

“Just go find somewhere else and do the best I can at that,” Jensen said of what his mentality was after Warren was named Southside’s signal caller.

Jensen said his experience battling for that quarterback role has helped him as a defensive back. He studies film ahead of games, learning routes and dialing in on the tendencies of the opposing quarterback.

Southside’s defensive backs got their first true test of the season last week at Perquimans. The Pirates like to sling the ball around, so Jensen knew he and that unit would see some action come their way. He was able to put his stamp on the game when he picked off Mason Votava at the beginning of the second quarter and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown.

“I know a lot about the quarterback position,” he said, noting that he’s been playing it since he was little.

Jensen is more than a smart playmaker in the secondary, though. He said he’s more of a lead-by-example player. Carrow and the Southside coaching staff have come to value that leadership. It’s one of the characteristics he’s developed most since the end of the 2016 season.

“Grant, after football season (last year), he really stepped up as a vocal guy and a leader guy,” Carrow said. “Not just on the football field. I know (head baseball coach Kevin McRoy) helped develop a strong leadership role with him. He took pride in being able to fight and get on the field somewhere. He’s done that.”

Versatility has made Jensen a valuable player for the Seahawks, too. After scoring a defensive touchdown, he slotted in as a reserve running back and scored a 37-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“He’s a guy that we get to learn every position. He knows more positions on the team than anybody else. He’s a backup quarterback, he knows split end, he knows tail back, and he knows wingback,” Carrow said. Injuries can derail a football season, especially at the 1-A level, so having someone that’s readily able to shift around when needed is prized.

“He’s kind of our utility player. … It’s just hard work. Grant really has worked hard for four years. He wasn’t the fastest guy as a freshman. He worked hard in the weight room to build his speed. He’s bought into the system, and especially in his junior and senior years, he’s bought into a leadership role.”

With the Seahawks 3-0 to begin the season, they’ve now won 35 games in the four years this senior class has been in the program. It’s a direct result of that culture that Jensen personifies.

“We’ve got a great atmosphere here. The coaching staff is great. They’re on point with what they’re talking about,” Jensen said. “I just love Southside.”