With his impressive sports acumen and his preternatural charm, Grant killed on Letterman, who sent him to Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans. When he met Joe Montana and Franco Harris there, he couldn't help but blurt, "How 'bout an autograph?" The two said, "Sure." And so Grant produced a pen and notepad and said innocently, "Who should I make it out to?" He was 13. ("I don't really ask for autographs," he says of the gag. "It's unprofessional.")
The next year ABC sent him to San Diego for the Super Bowl pregame show. But his real sports reporter's rite of passage had come years earlier, when he was blown off by Albert Belle. "He was eating pudding in the Orioles' locker room," says Grant, "and he just started flapping his hand at me to go away."
Everyone else in sports seeks him out. When Grant was 11, his father, a contractor who goes to games with him, couldn't find Grant at Camden Yards. "I walked into the Orioles' clubhouse," recalls Dennis, "and there's my son, sitting in a chair, talking baseball with Cal Ripken Jr."
Whenever Grant was unable to see around a throng of reporters at Deion Sanders's locker, Prime Time would part the sea of cameras in the Redskins' locker room and pull the kid to his side before entertaining questions.
"Whaddya got for me, buddy?" Michael Jordan asked Grant, gently grabbing his shoulder in a postgame press scrum in Washington. The kid's perceptive question—was MJ inspired by the attendance of his children that night?—elicited a thoughtful reply from Jordan that began, "I was hoping someone would ask me that."
Now athletes are eager to appear on Grant's weekly two-hour radio show, which he does live every Saturday from an XM studio in Washington. When Grant came home from school last week to see that linebacker Micheal Barrow had been released by the Giants, he recalled what four-time guest Michael Strahan once told him: that teammates call Barrow "Powdered Donuts" because his face becomes spangled with spittle when he talks, as if sprinkled with confectioner's sugar.
Which is to say, Grant Paulsen already has a better Rolodex, job, voice, vocabulary and career than most of us, which raises the question: Where does he go from here? "Journalism II, Biology, Theater and Math," he says. It is, after all, a school day.