Detroit — Grant Toutant stepped on Warren De La Salle’s campus a few years ago at 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds.
Toutant is now 6-7, 320 pounds and one of the premier offensive tackles in the state. He committed to Ohio State last month.
Toutant and De La Salle will be trying to win their third straight Division 2 state championship, which would match Birmingham Brother Rice’s accomplishment from 2011-13.
Toutant was among several players helping out at the Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic youth football clinic Saturday morning at the SAY Detroit Play Center in Detroit while also promoting the Classic, which opens the season Aug. 29-31 at Wayne State University.
De La Salle will play Division 3 state runner-up Muskegon Aug. 30. Kickoff is at 7.
“My senior year is going to be the biggest year for me and my team,” Toutant said. “We have a chance to do something really special and go for three state championships in a row, and I think our team can really do that. We’re getting better every day. We’re starting to bond as a team, starting to mesh and getting better.”
De La Salle lost multiple impact players, including cornerback/receiver Josh DeBerry (Boston College), linebacker Jacob Dobbs (Holy Cross), offensive lineman Danny Motowski (Central Michigan) and quarterback Nolan Schultz, who rushed for three touchdowns and completed 8 of 13 passes for 189 yards and a TD in a 29-16 state championship game win over Muskegon Mona Shores.
But, De La Salle returns quarterback Anthony Stepnitz, who started last season as the No. 1 quarterback before breaking his ankle in Week 4, along with running back Brett Stanley, offensive lineman Adam Zepp and defensive end Michael Young Jr.
“Anthony is a really good quarterback,” Toutant said. “He can run the ball really well for a quarterback. He’s not afraid to drop a shoulder and go into somebody. He has a pretty good arm, threw some 40-yard balls early last season. I think this will be a big year for him.”
Toutant talked of his journey to get him from 6-4 and 180 pounds to a four-star tackle with multiple offers from Power Five schools, including Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Auburn and Michigan State.
“It’s hard, a lot of dieting and working out,” Toutant said. “Before going into my freshman year I was maybe 180 pounds. I just started eating, gaining weight, working out a lot, getting stronger. I think every year I’ve gained 20 to 30 pounds at least, just getting bigger and bigger.”
Toutant credits basketball for helping his athleticism.
“Footwork is a huge part of it,” Toutant said. “I’d say basketball helped me out a lot with that, and on top of that just doing extra work on my own, just trying to get better feet because that was one of the hardest things of growing and getting so much bigger quickly. My feet started to get worse, so I just had to keep doing more and more footwork drills to get better.
“Basketball was my primary sport before I was a football player, so I’ve always loved basketball and I think basketball helped me a lot, just moving and staying in shape.”
Toutant said his strength is run blocking. Oh, and about his strength: He benches 330 pounds and squats 550.
“I improved a lot on pass blocking, but I’d say I’m primarily a run blocker,” Toutant said. “I just like to get at people, just maul them and just drive them as hard as I can and put them into the ground.”
Toutant committed to Penn State last year, but then received an offer from Ohio State coach Ryan Day in January, after he replaced Urban Meyer as head coach.
“Coach Day recruited me, offered me in January, and as soon as they offered me there was interest in the back of my mind,” said Toutant, who took his official visit to Ohio State in June and then flipped to the Buckeyes. “Coach Day is really down to earth and tells it how it is and that’s exactly what you need as a recruit.
“I’d say Ohio State’s engineering program, that did it for me. They had a lot more stuff in the automotive industry, which is what I wanted to get into. I felt it was better, more hands-on experience, and it’s easier to get a job right out of college with the program they have there.”