By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Grant Spoon eventually found his way to the Williams football field as a player. That has made for the best of times for him and his father.
Spoon is a senior kicker and punter for the Bulldogs.
“I couldn’t play football growing up because my mom wouldn’t let me because too many concussions, injuries, she said,” Spoon recalled. “So I wanted to get on the field somehow, and I thought kicker would be a great way to get on the field and help out the team.”
That has been the case as Williams (9-2) goes into the second round of the Class 3-A playoffs Friday night at Fayetteville Seventy-First (11-0).
Grant Spoon will be in uniform and his father, former NFL linebacker Brandon Spoon, will be on the sideline as an assistant coach.
This has come full circle.
“Words don’t express how cool it is, just to be able to share that experience with him,” Brandon Spoon said. “That same experience I had with my dad. I try to tell that to him, explain it to him. Because I knew what it meant to me, all these years later.”
Brandon Spoon played for Williams, finishing his senior football season as a high school All-American in the fall of 1995. Then he was on his way to the University of North Carolina for a stellar career.
So Grant has taken a different path, finding rewards nonetheless.
“I played flag football growing up, but I just couldn’t do helmets,” he said. “My dad wasn’t mad either way. Whatever sport, he was going to support me. He wanted me to be happy.”
Brandon played in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills before Grant was born. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns in 2001 in an injury-shortened pro career.
Third generation for Williams High School Spoons
Soon after, he joined the Williams coaching staff. Brandon’s father, Tommy Spoon, had been a revered figure in the Williams athletics department before dying unexpectedly when Brandon was a UNC player.
And that’s part of the backdrop by why having Grant along for three seasons has been so special.
“For me, it’s so much more than football,” Brandon said. “I coach because this is that one place that I still have that connection with my dad. Nothing has changed on that field since the time I was here. I know exactly how (Grant) sees it because I was doing the same thing.”
Grant joined the football team as a sophomore, also keeping a spot on the Bulldogs’ highly successful boys’ soccer team.
His mother, Abbie Melvin (and Brandon’s former wife), opposed a football path for their son.
Brandon’s injury past led to the worries regarding Grant’s football participation.
“It’s a parent’s concern, especially when he’s a small guy growing up,” Brandon said. “He was always a small kid growing up. I understood, didn’t fight that.”
Brandon played at a time before concussions were so scrutinized. He had documented concussions, and perhaps others.
“Luckily, he has some friends both here and who go to Southern (Alamance) who helped nudge that along (the idea of) just kicking,” Brandon said.
One of those is Southern senior defensive back Myles Darroch, a friend since Highland Elementary School.
“I’ve known Grant forever,” Darroch said. “He always wanted to play football. I was like, ‘You could kick.’ “
Soccer had worked out for Grant since third grade. That led to a spot as a defender for the varsity Bulldogs, splitting time with football.
And so did his dad.
“The first two years, I’d miss practice to walk over and watch his soccer games,” Brandon said. “Or I would leave practice and go to road games.”
This year, Grant decided to stick with football only.
“I love football ever since I joined, and I wanted to focus on that and make a career of it, go to college,” Grant said. “I figured I can’t do both at the same time and stay healthy, so football was the choice.”
A player named Spoon playing football at Williams made sense. He’s a linebacker, right?
“I get a lot of that ‘You look like your dad. Why don’t you play any other position?’ “ Grant said.
Yet Grant said he should be well-conditioned in handling the mental aspect needed for a kicker.
“It’s nerve-wracking. It’s head case,” he said. “Dealing with two older sisters (Avery and Riley), I’ve been around people who get in my head.”
Memories along the way
Grant remembers suiting up in 2021 the football opener at Cummings.
“My first varsity game. That was already a wacky game because we had a three-hour rain delay,” he said. “That’s my first-ever football game and to get to spend it with him. That look on his face watching me suit up for the first time is something I won’t forget.”
Another notable moment came later that season with a state-playoff victory against Wilson Fike,
“The first playoff game I’ve been a part of and my dad’s first one in a while,” Grant said. “Watching him, how excited he was and how excited we both were.”
Grant and Brick Bowen shared many of Williams kicking duties last year.
For the Spoons, there was a different type of father-son moment on the field after a 2022 regular-season loss at Eastern Alamance. Spoon missed on a potential winning field goal in overtime.
“Everything is a teaching moment, whether it’s success or failure,” Brandon said of the postgame discussion. “That moment was painful, but it was a catalyst for his work starting that next week. Use experiences as a learning opportunity and a motivation, and that’s what he did. That’s a teaching moment as a father.”
Grant remembered that lesson.
“I put that blame on me but everyone said it wasn’t my fault,” he said. “We all could have done things better. I could have done things better. He told me this isn’t going to change how he feels about me or how anyone feels about me. It was just a point of ‘I’ve got to get to work now.’ “
The Spoons are savoring this time.
“For me, it’s less about what he does on the field,” Brandon said. “It’s just being able to be out there with him and kind of share the experience. The fact that he’s doing well is a bonus for me.”
Grant is 41-for-45 of extra-point kicks this year. He has connected on four field goals, with a long of 45 yards against Eden Morehead.
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Williams coach Patrick Stokes was an Eastern Alamance assistant coach when his son, Jackson Stokes, played for the Eagles. He admires how it’s turned out for the Spoons.
“For those of us who are fortunate enough to coach our sons and have these moments together, there’s nothing like it,” Stokes said. “You want to win here and you want to support each other and all that. When you go home, you’ve got to be there for each other win or lose. There’s a kinship there. Special stuff.”
Brandon, 45, works full-time in medical sales and is remarried to Kate Spoon, who’s now girls’ soccer coach at Williams. Football coaching is his release.
While there won’t likely be father-son football comparisons, there’s certainly a resemblance.
“He can’t get in trouble because he looks too much like me and people will talk,” Brandon said. “It’s good for me. He may not like it, but it helps me out a lot as a parent.”
While Grant has seen highlights of his father playing college and pro football, it has been better to see him in a coaching role.
“It’s wonderful watching him,” Grant said. “I’ve been on the field ever since I could walk, watching my dad coach. Just being on the same team with him, it makes that connection very special because he had that with his dad. That’s something that really means a lot to us.”