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DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Grant Torgerson, West Forsyth
Early illness didn't stop Wolverines LB from making big impact
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ALL GROWN UP // After moving from Texas, West Forsyth senior linebacker Grant Torgerson first played football in Georgia with the Sawnee Panthers. He played quarterback. “I was just kind of getting the feel for football, honestly,” Torgerson said. Torgerson grew up to become a leader in the Wolverines’ program, culminating in being the 2016 Forsyth County News’ Defensive Player of the Year. - photo by Micah Green

The offseason for West Forsyth’s football team had been brutal, but Wolverines senior Grant Torgerson had relished the challenge. He’d been selected one of West’s three team captains on a roster filled with returning talent, so the Wolverines’s new strength coach was pushing the group to get better and bigger in hopes of producing a breakthrough season.

Then Torgerson got mono.

He missed West’s first two games, a win at Woodstock and a rain-shortened loss at home to Pace Academy, 20 percent of all that was guaranteed of his senior season. In that time, he could hear from teammates and see on the sidelines all that he was missing.

“Everybody else was having these huge stats games,” Torgerson said. “I was like, I’ve got to catch up. I’m not going to let [fellow captains] Jackson [Brantley] and Joey [Congrove] talk to me about how they have more tackles than me.”

They didn’t for long.

Torgerson returned for West’s third game and announced his presence, which would be felt all season by opponents.

Against Hillgrove that week, Torgerson was a terror at linebacker, with 10 tackles including two for losses, a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and pass deflection, and clutch on offense, rushing for 54 yards and five touchdowns in a 56-35 victory.

Torgerson’s effectiveness that night on both sides of the ball was a taste of things to come, particularly on defense where the linebacker made 78 tackles including nine for losses with five sacks, four fumble recoveries, two interceptions and two forced fumbles – despite missing two games – to be named the 2016 Forsyth County News Defensive Player of the Year.

Torgerson’s offensive production made his defensive performances all that more impressive.

Against Forsyth Central, he had 14 tackles including three for losses with a sack and interception – plus 96 rushing yards.

Against Dacula, one of Gwinnett County’s most consistent programs, he had nine tackles including one for loss with a sack, interception, forced fumble – and two rushing touchdowns.

“Later in the season, your body is starting to weigh down,” Torgerson said. “But that’s what a lot of that summer work is for. I think we stayed in shape for the most part and that helped a lot of us go two-ways.”

Indeed, even at the end of his high school career, in West’s thrilling – or tortuous, depending the sideline – 45-42 loss to Brookwood in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs, Torgerson was a factor on both sides, making eight tackles including two for losses – and rushing for 93 yards and two touchdowns.

“We definitely feel like we should have won that game,” Torgerson said. “But it was a good way to go out if you’re going to lose a game.”

FCN: What was it like being in a leadership position on this season’s team?

Torgerson: “I definitely feel like I was the kid people turned to when we got down by a touchdown, down by two touchdowns, everybody kind of looked at how I was reacting. It was kind of cool.

“I think definitely the way of the leaders, including myself, how we responded to that is a lot of the reason we had so much success early, because we played a touch schedule for the first half of the year.”

FCN: What enabled you to be so effective on both sides of the ball for the entire season?

Torgerson: “We kind of changed our practice where we had two separate practices almost. First half, I would go on defense primary, then second half I’d go on offense. So I wasn’t missing anything. I knew what was going on with the offense, so I could jump in anytime.”

FCN: So what’s next for your football career?

Torgerson: “I’m waiting right now to see what comes with the recruiting stuff. I’ve got Tusculum, Stetson and Davidson looking at me right now, but I’m just waiting to see how that plays out over the next month or so. Hopefully, I’ll play. I want to. That’s the goal right now.”