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'A model for consistency': Childhood friend of Grant Wahl remembers late soccer journalist

Reminiscing on photos of Grant
Posted at 5:20 PM, Dec 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-11 18:34:30-05

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — As the nation continues to mourn sports journalist and Kansas City-area native Grant Wahl, the memories are flooding in for those who knew him before his global success.

Mark Denby remembers Wahl best during their time as Boy Scouts.

"He was an older guy in the Scout troop and a person to emulate, and really a person to emulate to this day," Denby said while flipping through old photos, smiling as he landed on one of Wahl in the center of the troop.

Wahl was four years older than Denby, who looked up to Wahl not only as a friend and role model but as a brother.

"[He] never hesitated to say hi to me in the hall or check and see how my day was going," Denby said of their time at Shawnee Mission East High School.

Besides kindness, Denby says Wahl embodied the definition of each other characteristic listed in the Scout Law.

"The Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, obedient, thrifty, clean and reverent," Denby said. "I can’t think of any of those words that didn’t apply to Grant."

Wahl's sudden death came as a shock to Denby and his family. His siblings loved Wahl the same, and his parents considered him a son.

But it's what Wahl leaves behind that shows the impact he made in the Kansas City community.

"Grant's Eagle Scout project was to establish a hiking trail between a number of historic places in northeast Johnson County," Denby said. "His Eagle Scout project book, and more information about the trail, is on display at the Shawnee Mission Indian Mission."

No matter where life led Wahl, Denby says he was a model for consistency.

"Even though Grant went on to do things on the world stage, he never forgot people, he always stayed connected to those people in his life," Denby said.

Watching as the world reacts to Wahl's passing, Denby's not surprised to see how many others Wahl touched.

He says all the good Wahl accomplished in his short life, something many around the world are just finding out, is what people in Kansas City have known all along.

"His passion for others and just passion for humanity … willing to be an advocate for change … willing to be outspoken about those things," Denby said. "Yeah, that's Grant."