With the help of a scholarship from the Oaklawn Foundation, Demarius Grant plans to attend Arkansas Tech University this fall and play football as a walk-on. At 6-foot-1,310 pounds and benches around 400 pounds, he has pretty good chances.
Demarius is a graduate of Fountain Lake High School. He plans to pursue a career in coaching, or maybe computer science or engineering. Like most students in his position, he isn’t certain. “I’m not exactly sure what I want to do, but I’ve been inspired to be a coach because I’ve had some good role models. I also loved taking part in my school’s classes like East Lab and Integrated Production of Technology.”
Demarius is the unofficial adopted son of Wendy and Tracy Simpson. Tracy, a local radio host and coach, met young Demarius when he was in the third grade. “I have coached hundreds of kids over the years in football and baseball, but for some reason, he set deep in my family’s heart,” said Tracy. “He is part of the family now.”
The Simpsons welcomed Demarius into their home when his elderly grandparents were facing health issues and had to move to Wisconsin. His grandmother needed to be closer to the Mayo Clinic there for medical treatment for ALS, known commonly as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“One day I had some kids over to play and work on our farm. Demarius asked me, ‘Coach, can I just stay with y’all?’” remembered Tracy. “I told him to go pick out a bedroom, and he’s been with us ever since.”
“I’m so grateful to Tracy and Wendy for taking me into their home. They have taught me new things—life lessons and practical stuff,” said Demarius. “Now I know how to change my oil, replace a car battery, build a fence, and they helped me get my driver’s license. But they also taught me the value of hard work and the importance of family.”
Not to mention, my new brothers kind of picked on me a lot, in a loving way of course, but I’m grateful for that now,” said Demarius. “It made me a better football player and tougher on the field.”
Demarius had an exemplary high school career. Heavily involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes he was recently asked to speak at one of their conferences. He was named a member of the Arkansas all-star football team, named an all-state player in the 4A conference, had a 3.0 GPA and even volunteered once to be a cheerleader when the squad needed a replacement.
“If anyone needs help, Demarius is there,” said Tracy. “Not just for sports, though he excels in that area, but he has volunteered to help with reading programs, kids with special needs and has done work for Hot Springs Village.
“He did not have an easy start in life. His parents are incarcerated, and he moved a lot as a child. While we call Demarius our son, and he calls my wife and me ‘Mom and Dad,’ we still want him to stay connected to his family.”
In Demarius’ scholarship letter application, he closes with, “I need this scholarship because I believe that college will give me opportunities that my mom and brothers never had. I want to create a legacy by being the first one in my family to graduate from college and make a happy, successful life for myself.”
Hot Spring Area Community Foundation, an affiliate of Arkansas Community Foundation, is the administrator of the Oaklawn Foundation Scholarship Fund. The Fund provides scholarships to students in Garland County each year.