Florida Keys News
Saturday, December 14, 2013
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Key Wester makes good as FSU ball boy
'Red Lightning' has cult following at games, on YouTube

Just call him "Red Lightning." Everybody else does.

Frankie Grizzle-Malgrat, the Key West-born ball boy for the Florida State University Seminoles football team, has become an online sensation lately for his passionate on-field advocacy of his favorite football team.

Since taking the ball boy job this season, the flaming red-haired (and bearded) Grizzle-Malgrat has made a name for himself as one of the most animated ball boys in the history of the sport.

At any given game, Red Lightning can be seen celebrating with his team after they score touchdowns, and nudging members of the opposing team if he thinks they've hit one of the 'Noles too hard.

Earlier this month a YouTube video of his highlights went viral, with hundreds of thousands of views to date. Now that the Seminoles have clinched a spot in the national championship game (against the Auburn, Ala., Tigers), interest in the team -- and its outgoing ball boy -- seems to have reached a fever pitch around the country.

"I think that video has about a million hits now," Grizzle-Malgrat said Thursday. "It's crazy. I never thought it would come to this, but it shows that people are paying attention to the equipment staff, and how hard we're working for the team."

Grizzle-Malgrat isn't sure exactly who coined the Red Lightning moniker, but he likes it.

"I think it's funny," he said. "It fits."

As a student at Key West High School, Grizzle-Malgrat played football and baseball, always putting his all into everything he did. He was also a regular fan at matches in which he wasn't playing.

"He was always the consummate fan, at every game," said Principal Amber Archer Bosco. "His classmates all knew that he was going to go far, and he has."

Red Lightning graduated in 2011 and quickly packed his bags for Tallahassee. A lifelong Seminoles fan, Grizzle-Malgrat started as ball boy during summer training camp this past August. His enthusiasm was catching, and boss decided that Red Lightning was ready for the prime time.

"I've always been an FSU fan," Grizzle-Malgrat said. "Now that I'm part of the FSU program, I couldn't be any happier."

With his beloved 'Noles gearing up for the National Championship game, taking place Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Red Lightning said the campus is humming with excitement as the possibility of bringing home the coveted Vizio BCS National Championship trophy grows stronger. The locker room, though, is another matter.

"It's the first time since 2000 that we're going to the championship, and there's definitely an exciting buzz on campus," Grizzle-Malgrat said. "But the buzz in the locker room is that it's just another day for us to keep training. We can't get too excited about it, because there's still work to be done. The celebrating will come, and when it does, I'll be really excited and happy and probably just jump up and down and scream, 'I'm a national champion!'"

For all his outward theatrics on the playing field, Grizzle-Malgrat is humble about his role.

"I'm just a ball boy," he said. "The team goes out every day and play their game at the level they play at. I'm just here to be a part of it. They do their own thing."

Red Lightning is also grateful for all the encouragement he's received from his friends and family in Key West and elsewhere.

"A lot of people have written to me on Facebook saying how proud they are," he said. "And people are always coming into my mom and dad's shops, talking about me there, too. I get a lot of support from my friends and family in Key West, and I try to spend as much time with them as possible when I come back to town.

"I've also received tons of support from the equipment staff. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be doing what I am today. They've been just great."

tschmida@keysnews.com

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