Groteboer has ‘raw power’
Five times in the last two years, Rochester Lourdes football coach Mike Kesler has had to whip out his cell phone during practice to call the Riddell representative who works with his team.
“He broke another one,” Kesler would say each time.
Kesler was talking about Jake Groteboer and his penchant for hitting so hard in practice that he can destroy a football helmet. Five of them, actually.
With a simple eye test, Groteboer looks like the type of athlete who hits like a Mack truck.
“Since he was in eighth grade, he’s been lighting guys up in practice to the point that we’ve just gone ‘wow,’” Kesler said. “He’s an explosive kid on contact. He hits as hard as anyone we’ve had. I think he’s broken five helmets in the last two years; the Riddell rep said he’s never seen anything like it.”
Groteboer said there’s certainly a sense of pride in his ability to hit with authority. The breaking of helmets is an added bonus.
“The best thing about it is seeing Kesler get so fired up,” Groteboer said. “He calls the Riddell guy right away each time. He’s made the managers go get me a new helmet a few times.”
Standing an intimidating 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, Groteboer always has been a physical specimen. He’s been a monster on the football field since his sophomore year.
Groteboer’s physical talent always has been there, but he’s taken his game to new heights this season.
“He’s playing more aggressive this year, “Kesler said. “He worked hard on the things he needed to work on in the offseason. He’s reading better as a linebacker. And his running ability is on another level.”
A LEADER ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL
Groteboer has been the team’s leader on both sides of the ball this season. He leads the team with more than 1,000 yards rushing from his fullback position, and he’s teamed with Andrew Peine to create a devastating force in the middle of the Lourdes defense.
He will go down as one of the best Kesler ever has coached. It’s helped, too, that Groteboer is an outstanding person and leader.
“He’s up there; I don’t like to rank them, but he’s up there,” Kesler said. “He’s got so much raw power, more than any player we’ve had. It’s been fun to watch.”
The foundation for Groteboer’s success was set years ago; he’s witnessed many incredible Eagles leaders over the past five seasons.
As only an eighth-grader, Groteboer mostly played junior varsity, but he was a small part of Lourdes’ 2014 title team. In 2016, as a sophomore, Groteboer helped the Eagles win the state title again.
Saturday, he has a chance to be part of another championship squad.
Groteboer said the leaders from those past title teams helped shape who he is today.
“They were great role models for me,” Groteboer said. “Especially eighth-grade year, I didn’t know what was going on, and those guys helped me. I remember Carter (Greguson) and Noah (Hillman) giving me rides all over the place and going over things with me, telling me what I needed to do. They all had their different quirks as leaders. Noah was the quiet guy, Carter was more energetic. I took a little from both guys.”
No matter the outcome of Saturday’s Class AAA title game against Fairmont at U.S. Bank Stadium, Groteboer’s football career won’t end.
He received interest from Division I and Division II programs following his sophomore season, but Groteboer later decided he didn’t want to pursue a college football career, so college coaches backed off.
Groteboer changed his mind last summer. He was injured during a team camp at South Dakota State, and his senior season looked to be in jeopardy. The thought of never playing football again scared Groteboer.
“I had been thinking about it even before that,” he said. “But at SDSU, being out on that field and not able to play, I just felt almost hopeless.”
Kesler believes Groteboer has the potential to play at the Division I level and that he can certainly play at the Division II level. However, Groteboer has decided on a different path.
Instead, he will take his talent, heart and helmet-cracking abilities to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
“I took a tour there, even before I decided I was going to play college football, and I just loved it,” he said. “I hadn’t even talked to their coaches at that time. When I decided I wanted to play, I talked to their coaches, and it was a perfect fit.”
Groteboer is unsure if he will play linebacker or fullback in college. “Coach said when I get out there, he would fit me in somewhere,” Groteboer said.
Asked why he decided not to pursue a higher level of football, Groteboer said the game is about more than “levels” to him.
“To me, it’s just about playing the game, getting to meet people and having the experience,” he said.
Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium, Groteboer will get one more “experience” in a purple and gold uniform.
“It’s been a blast, being out there with my senior friends,” he said. “We’ve taken a lot of pride in what we’ve done. This is it for us, and we’re excited for one last chance to be out there together.”