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Grant Larkin does it all for Neuqua Valley football

Neuqua Valley’s Grant Larkin doesn’t have a satisfactory answer to college coaches’ favorite question.

That’s just as well, considering opposing high school coaches don’t have a good answer about how to deal with him.

Larkin, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior who has committed to play at North Dakota State, was asked about his favorite position.

“Honestly, that’s the big question a lot of schools asked me when recruiting me,” he said. “I guess the answer that you don’t want is that I don’t have one.”

That’s unusual but maybe not a big deal for someone with an ever-expanding menagerie of skills that allows him to play multiple positions.

Larkin has seen action at receiver, running back, safety, kick returner and sometimes edge rusher for the Wildcats (3-1). He even played quarterback at times during a 21-20 upset of Missouri state champion St. Louis St. Mary’s on Sept. 9, taking several snaps out of the wildcat formation.

“He’s a jack-of-all-trades,” defensive back Nic Lendino said. “I’ve been playing with that kid for years, and he’s impressive. He’s got all the skill in the world. He really stands out from other people.”

One way Larkin stands out is his strength.

“He’s an explosive football player,” Neuqua Valley coach Bill Ellinghaus said. “Because he’s so explosive, he can do different things for us. He can blitz off the edge, he can play in our dime package, he can run the football and obviously play receiver.”

Larkin had three catches for 25 yards and rushed six times for 34 yards and a touchdown against St Mary’s. He also made plenty of stops on defense.

He credits the training he received under JR Niklos and his staff at Acceleration Sports Performance with helping his athleticism.

“Most props to those guys,” Larkin said. “A lot of the training is football-related stuff like speed and strength. Obviously, it costs a lot of money, but trying to be good at everything, you ought to see a lot of people. That’s what has been paid off for me.”

Larkin tries to be the best he can be, no matter where he plays. Receiver has been a constant since he began playing football in kindergarten, but he will play safety at North Dakota State.

“A lot of schools said that fits my mold — my size, my speed, my athleticism,” Larkin said. “To me, it doesn’t matter where I play. I’m just a football player.”

Football has a rich tradition in Larkin’s family. His grandfather Dwight Spangler played linebacker at Upper Iowa and is a member of the university’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

Larkin’s brother, Sean, a 2020 Neuqua Valley graduate, played two years at Southern Illinois and plays rugby at Western Michigan.

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Grant Larkin wrestled, ran track and played rugby, lacrosse and water polo until he got to high school, where he focused solely on football for one big reason.

“It’s nights like these, just coming together as a team with the crowd roaring,” Larkin said. “There’s no better feeling.

“My brother played at the highest level, and he tells me there is nothing like Friday night with all your friends and fans and the whole city behind you. My favorite part of it is working hard with the guys over the summer and during the season and just coming together as one, getting wins like this.”

Larkin will graduate in December in order to enroll early at North Dakota State.

Lendino said Larkin will be a winner no matter what he does.

“He deserves everything he’s got,” Lendino said. “He works as hard as anyone ever could. He just loves football, and people who love football seem to succeed.”

Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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