Pitt to land NC linebacker

The University of Pittsburgh football team will lose a myriad of quality linebackers after the 2006 season including H.B. Blades and Clint Session. It appears that a player that caught the eye of the Panthers coaching staff this summer was recently offered a scholarship and read to say "Pitt is it".

Rugged middle linebacker Max Gruder (6-foot-2 inches, 225 pounds) from Charlotte Country Day High School in Charlotte, NC had a very busy summer visiting a plethora of schools. One school in particular seemed to standout from the rest.

"I attended a number of summer camps but Pitt was the one that stood out the most," stated Gruder. "I loved the coaches, the school and the facilities. The coaches were great guy. They were very genuine."

Guder was so fond of Pitt, he subsequently decided to compare every school he visited to the Panthers. None seemed to match the euphoria he found in Pittsburgh. Max was quick to tell a number of interested schools "thanks but no thanks."

Pitt linebackers Coach Curtis Bray and the defensive coaching staff liked what they saw from Gruder and they kept in very close contact with him. They recently received his senior highlight film and were blown away by what they saw. Coach (Dave) Wannstedt called him last week to officially extend a scholarship offer.

Gruder has been a three year starter for Charlotte Country Day High School. He's capable of bench pressing 340 pounds, squatting 600 pounds and running the forty-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. "I have been as heavy as 230 pound and I ran a 4.7 forty-yard dash," he said. "I decided to get down to 220 pounds this season and my speed really improved."

"Pitt's recruiting me as a middle linebacker, but they said there's a possibility I could move to outside linebacker due to my speed."

Max registered 132 tackles his junior season. He currently has registered 100 tackles and leads his teams in tackles, interceptions and forced fumbles. Gruder was named All-State and All-Conference as a junior. He recently was invited to participate in the North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl. The Shrine Bowl is an annual all-star game that pits the top seniors from both states.

When asked about his strengths, he stated "My size and speed are obviously an asset. I play with a lot of heart. I give you everything I have on the field. I play sideline to sideline."

Gruder has received scholarship offers from Western Michigan and Rice. North Carolina State and Illinois have recently contacted him about his senior film and hope to schedule official visits.

Max was quick to state he would take little time committing to the Panthers. "I'm supposed to receiver my scholarship offer in writing early this week. I assume it will arrive either Monday or Tuesday," he said. "The way it looks now, I'll probably commit this week and visit sometime in early December."

"Pitt has expressed the most interest in me and I have liked them the most from the beginning of the process."

Harry G. Psaros can be contacted at harrypsaros@msn.com.

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