POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — All the locals know the name, but Grant Safford is still looking to make his own identity in the annals of Point Pleasant football history.
Grant — like his grandfather, former University of Miami (OH) player and long-time PPHS football coach Steve Safford — will be taking his football talents to another level as the senior signed a national letter of intent with West Virginia Wesleyan on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the PPJSHS Commons Area in Mason County.
Safford — a 5-foot-11, 210-pound multi-sport letterwinner — decided to call Buckhannon home for the next four years after receiving numerous offers to compete at the collegiate level in a pair of sports.
Safford — a two-time all-state performer on the gridiron and a two-time state finalist in wrestling — decided that football was the avenue that he wanted to pursue, and West Virginia Wesleyan College had everything that the No. 2 all-time rusher in Point Pleasant history desired.
“I knew Wesleyan was the place when I visited the campus. I loved the athletic facilities and you can tell that the campus has some prestige about it with its graduate programs and four- and five-year degrees,” Safford said. “It was a good fit for me because of the balance of quality education and the chance to continue playing football. I am just really excited about having this opportunity.”
Safford — the 2016 Class AAA wrestling champion at 182 pounds — decided against offers from Wheeling Jesuit, Ohio Valley University and West Liberty for grappling, and also turned down offers from Glenville State and West Virginia State for football.
A member of a four-year class that never lost a regular season contest, Safford’s career has been nothing short of spectacular — especially given that most of it came alongside the school’s all-time leading rusher and current Marshall University player Cody Mitchell.
Safford sits in second place — behind only Mitchell — in career rushing yards (4,095) and in career touchdowns (53), as well as also being third in all-purpose yards (4,203) and sixth in touchdowns in a season with 20. Safford also has the eighth most rushing yards in a single season with 1,388 this past fall.
For all of his offensive accolades, it was his growth and performance at linebacker that really set him apart as a key cog in the Big Blacks’ success over his four seasons. PPHS, including playoff games, went 44-4 overall during Safford’s career — including a perfect 39-0 in regular season outings.
Current Point Pleasant football coach Dave Darst had nothing but praise for his now former star player, but he also noted that it was the quality of kid that sets Grant apart from so many others.
And that, Darst adds, is what West Virginia Wesleyan will come to love most.
“Grant has accomplished so much during his time here and he is one the best running backs that this program has ever produced, as well as becoming a really solid defensive player — which is what he is headed to college to play. This year alone, he was named the OVP defensive player of the year in the tri-county area and was also named the our team’s offensive MVP. That was the kind of senior season he had because he did everything,” Darst said. “He’s an incredible athlete with numerous accomplishments in multiple sports, and now he has the opportunity to get a great education and focus on one sport — which should make him an even better football player.
“Most of all, Grant is a real good young man that is focused and driven to succeed — rather it be on the field or in the classroom. (West Virginia) Wesleyan is adding a really good person to its program.”
Safford currently owns a 3.7 grade-point average and plans on working towards an MBA degree at WVWC.
The private NCAA Division II school was founded in 1890 and is an athletic member of the Mountain East Conference. Wesleyan — which finished 2-8 in football last fall — has an enrollment of around 1,500 students.
The academic draw to West Virginia Wesleyan played just as much a role in Safford’s decision as being able to play football.
He also feels that his hometown has played a large role in where he currently is — and where his future can lead him.
“Honestly, it is hard to think about leaving Point Pleasant because of what we have done here over the years. There are a lot of good memories here, but I also feel like I have been prepared for what is upcoming in the near future,” Safford said. “I am thankful for the opportunity that I have been given to play football at West Virginia Wesleyan, but I am also looking forward to the challenge of the academics there.
“Ultimately, you are going to school to obtain the degree — and this will be a degree worth getting. Plus, I still get to have fun playing football and I can use it to help me get that degree. I’m very blessed to have the opportunity that I have been given.”
Safford is the son of Faustina Bowen of Point Pleasant and Jason Safford of Hurricane.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.