Malakai Grant is a 17-year-old junior who starred on defense at Flagler Palm Coast this past season. The 5-foot-10, 191-pound linebacker led the Volusia/Flagler area with 137 total tackles, 77 of which were solo stops. Due to his stellar play during the 2019 season, Grant was named the Defensive Player of the Year by the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
He recently spoke with the Palm Coast Observer about his growth as a player and what's to come for next season. Here's what he had to say.
Q: You've played on defense your entire high school career — namely at linebacker. What do you like about being a defender?
I like the hitting. I like the hitting, the talking. Defense gives me that mentality to go hard every play. I want to stop others from scoring.
Q: Your head coach, Travis Roland, was previously a defensive coordinator at Mainland before coming to FPC and was a defensive back at the Division I level in college. What's it like to be coached by someone who is so defensive-minded?
It's really good. Coach Roland, he knows his plays. He always gives us the right call to make or either he'll let us call the plays and make them. But he'll correct us whenever we're wrong. Whenever we need him, he's right there for us. He's always with us.
Q: How do you think your game has evolved from last year to now?
Back then, I was a little hesitant. I wasn't sure what I could do or how I could help the team at the time. I really wasn't doing very well. But I overcame that fear. Watching film, going over the mistakes, it kind of came to me over time. I started working on my form and getting better at it so I can make plays.
Q: Is there anyone in particular on the team who you've looked up to over the years?
There's a lot of them. From Seamus Hackett to Nelson Paul to Tyler Irigoyen to Ethan Brady. Those guys were always helping me to be in the right place, how to line up, how to do my job right. I knew that if I did my job right, we were going to be able to get the work done together.
Q: You guys haven't been able to make it out of the first round of the playoffs yet. This season loss to Apopka was especially difficult. How do you overcome that heading into next year?
We got relaxed against Apopka. We were up. We thought we had it in the bag. We took our foot off the gas and that's when they just took over. But it's a good defeat for a better comeback.
Q: How is your recruiting going?
It's going OK. Coach Roland has been talking to some teams for me. I feel like it's going to be really good.