QB Grudi fits the bill for Spring Grove
At first glance, Neal Grudi doesn't strike you as the quarterback-type.
And in some ways, he's not.
Grudi isn't long or particularly lean, like your prototype passer. At 5-foot-10, he's built more like a linebacker or fullback. In the winter, Grudi doubles as a standout wrestler for the Rockets, mostly at 189 pounds. He was 38-9 as a junior last winter.
He may not look the part, but make no mistake. Grudi can wing a football around.
The senior probably has one of the stronger arms in the league, able to launch a ball, he estimates, between 50 and 60 yards.
In a sense, Grudi is like this Spring Grove team: He's technically solid, workmanlike and experienced. As a starter last year, Grudi threw for 1,267 yards. That number was tops among the YAIAA's returning passers.
Not bad for somebody who didn't even start to play quarterback until the eighth grade. Grudi was originally a fullback, before he said his boys' club shifted him to quarterback.
"We didn't really have anybody," Grudi recalled. "My coach said 'You can throw the ball kind of far.'"
Grudi's should figure prominently into the Rockets success or failure this season. Last year, Grudi's arm strength was sometimes overshadowed by spotty decisions and a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, Rockets coach Gregg Trone said. Grudi tossed more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (10) and completed just 42.5 percent of his passes.
A year of experience should pay dividends.
"On the mistakes, turnovers and stuff, penalties, we saw how it killed us so much last year," said Grudi.
That's why even though Grudi completed just 2 of 7 passes for 56 yards Friday in a 14-0 victory against Central Dauphin East, the more important stat might have been the zero interceptions he threw.
The senior will likely, however, need to do a bit more Friday for Spring Grove to have a chance at home against Susquehanna Township.
Beyond this year, Grudi plans to wrestle in college, though he isn't sure where yet.
"I haven't seen it really anywhere else, but it's really helped me," Grudi said of the wrestling connection. "Wrestling gets you in amazing shape, and it gets you in that mental mindset that nothing's really going to stop you until you win."