Being Grant Paulsen is more than just shoulder chucks from MJ and bear hugs from LL Cool J and red carpets that lead to green rooms that he'll share with the stars of Sex and the City.
It isn't just interviewing the Godfather of Soul on your own national talk show or being interviewed by the other James Brown for an HBO Real Sports profile. It gets better than long talks with Cal Ripken Jr. and short walks with Deion Sanders, two Super Bowl telecasts and five visits to Letterman.
No, the best thing by far about being Grant Paulsen is next Aug. 20, when you're finally old enough to drive and your parents no longer have to ferry you to FedEx Field every time you want to kick it with your homey, Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington.
When I grow down, I want to be Grant Paulsen, the 5'6" high school sophomore from King George, Va., who has his own national sports show (on XM Satellite Radio), his own weekly newspaper column (in the Fredericksburg, Va., Free-Lance Star) and Kwame Brown on speed-dial.
Like Brown or LeBron James, Grant has enough game to go straight from high school to the pros. He's a prodigy with a microphone—Doogie Howser, emcee—who talks shop with Bob Costas and rides buses with Brian Billick. What stands between him and his dream job, calling games on Monday Night Football, is less Al Michaels than Algebra II.
"My parents have always set my priorities straight," Grant says in his bedroom, with its poster of the Olsen twins and a champagne cork from the Patriots' first Super Bowl celebration. "If I want to do my show on Saturday or cover the Redskins on Sunday, I better do my homework tonight."
At age five Grant wore down the buttons on his bedroom TV and had to poke a pencil inside the set to switch between ESPN and The Deuce. At nine he was phoning in football predictions to his uncle Scott's radio show on WDVE in Pittsburgh before catching the school bus. At 10 he was a newspaper columnist and a TV sports reporter for WUSA in Washington, D.C. "He was always announcing imaginary games in the backseat of the car," says his mother, Janine.
When Letterman first invited Grant on his show three years ago, the Paulsens—Mom, dad Dennis, older brothers Ryan and Sean and younger sister Nicole—all piled into their blue Aerostar and drove straight to the swankest hotel they'd ever seen. "My sister and I kept spinning and spinning in that thing that goes around in a circle," Grant says of the hotel's revolving door.
"It was The dampens Go to New York" Dennis says, sighing.
"A limousine took us to the Ed Sullivan Theater, and I was pushing buttons inside and glasses were coming out of a panel," says Grant. "When we got there, fans were holding magazines that they wanted autographed. My brother Ryan was the first one out of the limo, and you just heard this big sigh—'Oh, nooo'—because everyone was waiting for Kristin Davis from Sex and the City"