CHARLOTTE – Deon Grant entered the NFL the same year as Tom Brady, and made a few plays against him in his 12 years in the league.
But while the legendary quarterback is still playing, and is teeing it up again this weekend against Grant's first team, Grant has stayed busy in his second career.
The former Carolina safety (2000-03) has been working with underprivileged youth in communities across Georgia – in his native Augusta and Atlanta – as well as northern New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York, with his Grant Foundation. He spends time as a captain for The Trust, an NFLPA organization focused on supporting players after their football days come to a close.
He has also joined up with the NFL Foundation, was once involved in a restaurant venture in Atlanta, is a part owner (silent partner) with Australian professional basketball's Brisbane Bullets, and is active with an Augusta-based company that specializes in dairy-free desserts, among other ventures across the country.
"I've always been the type that wants to stay active as much as I could," Grant said. "How I ended up involved in most of them was just something that I liked, and if there's an opportunity for me to be part of it, join forces, or create it."
Grant's professional football career started with the Panthers, who drafted him in the second round of the 2000 draft. He suffered a serious hip injury before his rookie season but bounced back in year two and picked off Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper in his first NFL start.
Grant finished his Panthers career with 216 tackles, 11 interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. He holds the franchise record for most interceptions in a single game, getting three picks off Culpepper in 2002, and started throughout the Panthers' run to Super Bowl 38.
He said he remains grateful for Carolina after his football career took him to three other spots before retirement.
"Carolina was a second home for me because they gave me the opportunity to display my skill by drafting me," Grant said. "Even though it was (an) ugly first year with the injury, (to) end up coming back from it and them trusting that I was going to come back healthy after that injury. (I) started my whole time there from the time I played an NFL game."
Grant spent the rest of his career with the Jaguars (2004-06), the Seahawks (2007-09), and the Giants (2010-11). He won Super Bowl 46 with New York, playing a pivotal role as one of three Giants to help knock down Tom Brady's Hail Mary at the end of the Super Bowl.
He picked off Brady twice the first time he faced him for the Panthers' last game in 2001. Brady, 45, was selected in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, the same year Grant, 43, made it to the league. Grant retired before the 2013 season, and Brady is in his 23rd year.
"When you've got the love of the game the way he does and got the championships to back it up and stay healthy – with all the new technology nowadays to keep the body healthy, it's not surprising at all," Grant said.
Earlier this year, Grant was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame after winning championships in high school (Josey High School in Augusta), college (Tennessee), and Super Bowl 46.
Today, Grant splits his time between homes in Atlanta and northern New Jersey and says he's excited to return to Charlotte for an NFLPA event in January.
Grant said he's thankful for his time with the Panthers. He said that he calls back to his years in the NFL when he speaks to younger people, offering a message that working hard helps lead to success.
"Just look at the dedication and the process," Grant said. "When I say that, dedication is even when you have the easy things in front of you for the moment, you have to recognize that only lasts for a quick moment. The process of really putting the hard work in and staying in it for the long haul, you always get rewarded at the end."