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Ledger: Grothe Tries to Make Impression on Bucs


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Grothe Tries to Make Impression on Bucs

By Rick Brown

THE LEDGER

Published: Friday, April 30, 2010 at 11:15 p.m.

LAKELAND | No one has ever questioned Matt Grothe's love for football.

Every time he took a snap either at Lake Gibson High or at the University of South Florida, Grothe played with a confidence, a passion and a fire that was as clear as the spring time skies of Tampa.

But his was different. It had been seven months since Grothe had participated in a full workout. It had been seven months since an ACL injury stole not only his senior year at USF but likely was the main reason he was not selected during the recent NFL Draft.

On Friday, another side of Grothe was on display while participating at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers three-day rookie/try out mini-camp.

It was an emotional Grothe; a Grothe that at times was unsure of himself.

Still there, however, was a dogged determination to prove he has what it takes to play football on the professional level.

That is, if he could just stay calm.

"I have no idea why but I was very nervous," Grothe said after practice. "I was so anxious to get out here. I couldn't calm down.

"Football is football to me but (Friday) it seemed like a whole new sport to me at times," he said. "I need to calm myself down and get back to the old mode of me."

That old mode of Grothe was one part gunslinger, another part Michael Vick.

Grothe had become the Big East all-time leader in total offense after accumulating 10,875 total yards and 75 touchdowns before tearing his ACL against Charleston Southern in September.

The unquestioned leader of USF and arguably the face of the Big East was now relegated to leading and coaching from the sidelines.

"It was tough," he said after taking a moment to fight back tears. "Football is something I love to do. The past eight months has been a big struggle for me, but I'm trying to come back strong."

After surgery and grueling months of rehab, Grothe was officially cleared to participate in all workouts in March.

Although a few NFL teams brought him in for workouts, no one signed him.

The CFL is interested and Grothe could take a shot up there. But when the Bucs asked him to come to the mini-camp, Grothe wanted to give it a shot.

"I know it's a business," he said. "But I'm trying to see if I can stick around and play out here."

The Bucs like what they see in Grothe, but with three quarterbacks already on the roster and another (Jevan Snead) signed to a free-agent contract, just getting invited to training camp could be a long shot for Grothe.

"It has to be tough to come to this on a try-out basis," said Tampa Bay quarterback coach Alex Van Pelt. "You have to show enough promise to catch a coach's eye. Still, it's an opportunity."

On Friday, when performing 11-on-11 drills, Grothe was accurate with the dump passes to the running back out of the backfield. But he was off-target on some of his medium and longer throws.

While his throwing may have been off, his leadership skills stood out.

"I was very impressed with Grothe," said coach Raheem Morris. "You listen to him in a huddle and you understand why he was in control of his team. You understand why he was a guy over there at South Florida that ran everything and ran the show. Just talking to him he has the lingo of a quarterback... You're talking about a sharp guy man."

Grothe has always had doubters since high school. Now, he has to prove himself once again.

"When I got to USF, they signed Carlton Hill, so I knew I had to work hard," Grothe said. "It paid off then and I'm hoping for the same thing here."

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