Today I sit down with history extraordinaire Jake Grant!
How are you?
Fine, thanks. Just settling into the new normal routine. Used the desk in my bedroom back home for the first time in years and it’s just enough smaller than my one on campus to be annoying. Things like that. Gotta adapt!
What’s your quick bio?
As of now, I’m a senior undergraduate mechanical engineer at Tech, but I’m originally from River Forest, Illinois and graduated from Oak Park River Forest High School, which is spitting distance from Chicago, and currently back up here as events continue to unfold. The plan is to roll straight into my masters, also in mechanical engineering, once the fall semester starts up in August after a summer internship.
What do you do at Tech?
If anyone has caught the last two editions of this, they’d remember you were a club tennis guy and Akshay was in Reck Club, and I think it’s fair to say I bridge that gap. I’ve swam for the swim club for four years (back to back national champs!) and served as treasurer, national governing body representative, and president, and have been a part of Reck Club since spring of my freshman year. In the club, I’ve been (variously) football, basketball, and non-rev sports chair (I know, the last one is shocking), and have also done intermittent work with athletics, the CRC Advisory Board, and have the distinct pleasure of serving the strategic planning committee in the focus on well-being. Basically, every aspect of sports except playing for a varsity team. Once got third place in the school in kickball without ever actually winning a game. That was a fun spring.
Question for the readers: I feel like I’ve turned ancient because when I started here, everyone had Facebooks, and now all the freshmen have TikToks. Is that a similar realization that happens to every class? Random aside, but my profile picture confused a lot of people when I got to Tech because I had shaved my head to taper for swimming and it was a picture of me bald from that meet. Who let me do that?
Chris: Yep, I noticed the same thing. Once I got to my fifth year it looked like everyone else on campus was a small child.
How did you get to FTRS?
I didn’t start reading the site until I got here as a student, since my true fandom really didn’t start until I set my bags down in Caldwell Hall in August of 2016 (but as for how I got to Tech and first crossed paths with it, that’s another much longer story). I remember devouring a lot of Tech content in the beginning, but the one that really stuck was FTRS. Part of my morning routine was sitting in Woody’s Dining Hall catching up on whatever had been posted lately before getting on with my day. I appreciated that there was no paywall, they covered interesting things, and it was accessible to a newcomer like me. Early May at the end of that year, I was sitting on the couch at home in River Forest, and Akshay, who I had befriended once I was in Reck Club, texted me an application to write for the site under the pretense that I, the guy who had written one football preview for the club, for the spring game, no less, should apply for the open writer position. I didn’t think much of it because, well, I like football, but I wouldn’t say I’m the most qualified to explain it to other people. Anyways, as he is one to do, he kept badgering me about it, so I went for it, got it, and said that I noticed they didn’t have much non-revenue sports content, and asked if I could maybe do that on the side when the fall started. The rest, they say is history. Around my one year work anniversary, I started the history column and dragged Akshay on board to be a writer/podcaster, too. Funny how that worked out.
What do you normally write about?
Oops, my rambling answer to the last question pretty much got us there. I head up the site’s non-revenue sport coverage, with a recap column from the previous week’s events called Yellow Jacket Roundup on Mondays - now including club sports more regularly! - and one-offs for major events and season previews as time permits, as well as write a history column called Rearview Mirror on Thursdays (but is currently in the YJR spot until sports come back). I co-host the podcast with Akshay and, during football season, I spruce up the historical opponent previews each week, and I like to pitch in with baseball if I get the chance.
Favorite Tech sports moment?
Does it have to be one I’ve seen? I feel like I spend so much time in books. But, really, I think I owe the Miracle on Techwood a huge debt of gratitude, because I probably wouldn’t have applied if I hadn’t, by some stroke of luck, finally been able to convince my friends to watch football instead of our usual Saturday night stuff, saw that madness, and decided that Tech was gonna be the last school on my list. I applied the next day. I still remember writing the essays on my porch on a beautiful cloudless Chicago fall Sunday. All the other stuff I love wouldn’t be on my radar without it.
Favorite non-cliche Tech sports moment? (i.e. not Miracle on Techwood, 2014 UGA, etc.)
Oh, you know I have lots of opinions on these. The least cliché? My pure sports euphoria will never again spike as high as it did on deck for the opening Friday night session of College Club Swimming nationals in 2018. Tech was okay my freshman year, finishing sixth overall, and fifth on the men’s side, and we were expecting roughly the same. For prelims and distance events, CCS runs two competition pools at the same time, and, in the opening event, the 800 Freestyle Relay, Tech’s men and women won the event, respectively, within seconds of each other, and we all, myself included, went on to swim some great races that meet. I matched my best-ever times two years after I was last in “good” shape. Meant a lot to represent Tech, and actually be a part of a team that won something.
Actual Favorite Non-Cliché Tech Wins (from games attended in person):
2016-17: Volleyball beats the School in Athens in a sold-out O’Keefe. My first live Tech sporting event.
2016-17: Okogie laying it in to beat the buzzer against Notre Dame
2016-17: Basketball hosts Indiana (for some reason) in the NIT, wins, gets Tom Crean fired. I come from an IU family, so this was sweet.
2018-19: Baseball rubber game with the school in Athens at SunTrust
2018-19: Baseball vs. Coastal Carolina in the Regional. What a bizarre game!
2019-20: Tech Volleyball comes back to upset a good Notre Dame team in five sets at O’Keefe. The fourth set of that match may be the single best set of volleyball I’ve ever seen. Place was electric.
2019-20: Tech beat Clemson on the road in basketball. I’ve been to 36 away sporting events and had never seen a win before this. Plus, swim club turned out as a whole team and made our presence known. What’s not to love?
Favorite non-Tech sports moment?
The greatest baseball game ever played happened on a Wednesday in November in Cleveland, Ohio. I was sitting in my pitch-black freshman dorm for 20 long, heart wrenching, rain-delayed minutes. But then, catharsis. “The Chicago Cubs have finally won it all.”
Favorite piece you’ve written for FTRS?
Oh, that’s tough. I really love what I do, and I absolutely love the history column. Favorites from that include:
- Tech, Race, and the 1956 Sugar Bowl
- Institute Faculty and Administration Politics of the 1960s
- The Integration of Georgia Tech
- The (fascinating) Cocking Affair of 1941
- The Theft of the Commerce School pt. 1 and pt. 2
- Hiring Heisman
- The Birth of Tech
- The Notre Dame Volleyball Recap (2019)
- The HTS about u[sic]ga, UNC, and VPISU
- The YJR where I just compared all the teams to smoothie shops (2018)
- Power Ranking the Little Things that Make Tech Special
- That Time Scions was an Atlanta Variety Podcast
- The Building Bracket and accompanying little histories (Round 1 pt. 1, Round 1 pt. 2)
- What the [Foreigner] is a Midnight Bud?
- Breaking Down Halftime Musical Chairs at a Basketball Game because apparently some TikTok person also reposted a video of this and they got 2.1 M views (2019)
- A One-Stop Shop for All Your Rivalry Needs
- Ripping off the Turnover Chain
But, really, I don’t think anything compares to The Meaning of Sports According to Jake.
I feel really self-serving after that. For non-Jake content, Akshay does great features, I obsessively read anything Chris or Stephen put out, and I am really proud of the great stats and film niches that FTRS holds in the Tech corner of the internet.
Favorite off-the-beaten-path Atlanta restaurant (i.e. not one of the typical ones everyone talks about)?
I feel like I plug Cypress enough that it’s not off-the-beaten path. Victory Sandwich Shop off of Freedom Parkway is a great vibe. I spend too much time at chains. Off of West Campus, I really loved the Four Rivers-Thumbs Up-Amalie’s-Delia’s stretch, but sadly Four Rivers closed that location. I get a lot of flack for only liking Chicago versions of things, specifically deep dish pizza, but I actually think my favorite slice of pizza on the planet is the Feilini’s Special with a side house salad. La Fonda has great drinks, chips, queso, guac, and meals. What’s not to like? Marcel’s is egregiously expensive during regular hours, but a $12 steak after 11:30 is absolutely worth it.
What kind of media are you into (music, tv, movies, books, podcasts, etc.)?
Well considering I just dropped a giant book recommendation in Monday’s Rearview, I see no reason not to put a link to that here. I really like esoteric history (shocking, I know) and have been reading a lot of that lately. If you like economics, geography, or history, Nature’s Metropolis about the development of the American interior was absolutely fascinating. Favorite book has to be To Kill a Mockingbird, though, with Moneyball and The Great Gatsby up there, too. Favorite play is Twelfth Night. As for music, I listen to like five songs on repeat until I get sick of them, so my tastes are both super specific yet vague. I’ve only ever seen Need To Breathe in concert, and they’re definitely my favorite band, with “Brother” being my favorite song. Probably worth explaining that I was the drummer of a Christian Rock band called the “Pious Pirates” in high school (the band pianist actually writes for FTRS’ sister site, California Golden Blogs, small world) so my mild obsession with the baseball Sunday song might stem from that. My movie hot take is I really just watch Star Wars to listen to a couple hours of a John Williams score. I’m more of a TV guy than a movie guy, and, regardless, I see visual media as a release, not a stressor, so I like lighthearted stuff.
Power Ranking of Movies Set/Filmed in Chicago:
10) The Untouchables
9) The Breakfast Club
8) Wayne’s World
7) Groundhog Day
6) Home Alone
5) Christmas Vacation
4) Stranger than Fiction
3) Blues Brothers
2) Ferris Beuhler’s Day Off
1) The Dark Knight (Fun Fact: I rode past Brach’s Candy Company on the Green Line the day they blew it up to film the hospital scene)
And as for TV shows, well Psych is the greatest show ever (I am the Sean Spencer to Akshay’s Gus), 30 Rock is incredibly well-written, The Office is overrated, but comfortable, and my “off-the-beaten-path” recommendation that, come to think of it, the people of this site might actually appreciate is The League, a show about a bunch of friends playing fantasy football. Shenanigans ensue. I think it’s on Amazon Prime video.
Chris: I’d just like to call out that “Pious Pirates” is an 11/10 band name.
What do you do when you aren’t watching sports?
Swimming, studying, reading. It was easier (and honestly vastly more interesting of a variety) to planespot when I lived biking distance from O’Hare. Really weird to not be able to swim, go out to eat with friends, to be honest. I really like tinkering with music, too, though. Not a lot of people know that one. Naturally, why don’t I put it out on the internet? Makes sense. I’m a fan of board games, too.
I think a lot of people would underestimate the depth and breadth of conversation in the From the Rumble Seat slack. Lots of folks with strong opinions about stuff like airplanes and airports. Makes for a good community.
Chris: This is not a joke, our resident plane people have been discussing plane models for days and I am so lost.
What’s your go-to icebreaker “fun fact”?
I grew up working for State Farm to earn my allowance. My father was a State Farm agent like his father before him. And his sister. And uncle. I am, in all senses of the label, Jake from State Farm (Tech addendum: the one time I met Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson, who were, for some reason, at the club swim nationals social event in 2017, they both lost their minds when they heard that one).
Do you have a rivalry with any of the other writers?
*cough cough* Akshay Easwaran *cough*
Seriously, though, him, Ethan, and Cade I am lucky to say I know very well outside of just being writing colleagues, and I am thankful for that.
In alliance news, Lil’ Jake and I have teamed up as Jakes. Good times.
(wholesome picture of the four of us, see, I promise Akshay wears white and gold sometimes)
Go-to sandwich? The Depth Charge from Submarine Tender. Sub with ham, roast beef, turkey, lettuce, tomato, pickle, cheese, mayo, oil and vinegar, and italian spice. Side order of butter-garlic fries.
Favorite class at Tech? Easily History of Sports in America taught by Johnny Smith. Can’t go back to Tech to take the class? No problem. Go read one of his four books.
Favorite travel spot? Ideal destination once I can travel again would probably be the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Most underrated vacation spot in America. I like to go back to places I already know, rather than new places. There’s comfort in it, I think. For a specific place, I cannot recommend Sunrise Lodge in Land O’Lakes enough. They’ve been good to my family for going on five decades now.
Favorite away road trip? Clemson. Between the Smokin’ Pig and the Esso Club, ice cream, the generally friendly vibe, easy distance from Atlanta, rivalry aspect, and lake scenery, it’s the ideal option.
Any closing words?
A hot dog is a sandwich, and is meant to be served steamed with mustard, relish, onions, a pickle, tomatoes, sport peppers, and celery salt. Feel free to ask whatever in the comments. Also, wash your hands!