In the Christmas classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" there's an elf named Hermey who wants to become a dentist. Likewise, today there's a Western Illinois Leatherneck who desires the same career path.
"Every time I interact with a person the one thing that always jumped out at me was the different smiles people have," said Grant Kasal, the 6-foot-5, 265-pound WIU player. "The teeth were something of interest to me, so I want to go into dentistry, preferably as an orthodontist, but I'm still working down that road."
That road includes being named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference Academic Honor Roll twice. Kasal plays a key role in the line of WIU's 3-4 defensive alignment.
"We're really coming together as a defense. Everyone is doing his job, especially up front," Kasal said. "It took awhile to learn all the plays we've installed. It's definitely moving in the right direction."
For Kasal, that means occupying the offensive linemen so that Leatherneck linebackers the likes of Quentin Moon and Brett Taylor can find easier paths to the ball. The scheme worked brilliantly Saturday as Taylor, a Buck Buchanan Award nominee as the top defender in the nation, tied a school record with 28 tackles.
"He's a very quick player, fast on his feet. A smart player and a great leader," Kasal said of Taylor.
Kasal played his high school football at Downers Grove North under coach John Wander. Kasal also lettered in basketball, volleyball and lacrosse.
"My first offer was from Eastern Illinois," Kasal said. "Shortly thereafter, I got my offer from WIU. I liked the feel I had here from my official visit. Brett Taylor was actually my host for that weekend. I just love the guy and the environment down here in Macomb, and that's why I chose WIU."
Kasal credited Bob Pinelli as a major influence.
“He had always told me that being big is a good thing. He was my first defensive line coach," he said.
Kasal said that he enjoys playing in the 3-4, led by Western defensive coordinator Tony Grantham.
"There's going to be a lot of movement that is going to be covered up," Kasal explained. "It's going to be disguised in a way that the offensive linemen might not know where we're coming from. Will it be a man-on-man pressure or five-man pressure? It could be up the middle or from anywhere."
Yet, Kasal is far from being just a football player at Western. The redshirt junior volunteers at the Loyola University Medical Center and at the Ronald McDonald’s Children Center. He enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing cards and eating. His musical choices range from the Beach Boys to Eminem to The XX.
Does he have a favorite song completely memorized?
"Besides 'The National Anthem,'" Kasal said, "my favorite song of all-time would be Jethro Tull's "Skating Away on Thin Ice". My dad would always play it when I was a kid."
A kid no more, Kasal works toward becoming a dentist.
"One thing I've heard is very beneficial in that regard is working with clay," he said. "You can mold different teeth and things in the structure of the mouth. Sculpturing would be a pretty neat way to learn."
Although Kasal spends most of his time doing just that, there always seems to be more to learn.
"I'm always studying, whether it's football-related or school-related," Kasal said. "But, that's how you reach your goals. You've got to put in the work."