Physical Player

Joe Gruber is a throwback player – the type of rough and tough Pennsylvanian that epitomizes football in the Keystone State. But even in today's speed-dominated game, there's still room for physical, hard-nosed players, which explains the recruiting interest this two-way standout is receiving.

Gruber, who hails from Mannheim Central High School, is a player who thrives on the contact and physical nature of the game. He got plenty of that action last year as a junior, when he played fullback, defensive end and middle linebacker. He excelled at all three positions, picking up 850 rushing yards and nine TDs on offense, while amassing 80 tackles on the defensive side of the ball. That performance led to some of the recruiting attention he has received over the off season.

"I have gotten interest from Connecticut, West Virginia, Syracuse, Temple, Penn State, Hofstra and Towson," said Gruber, who is being recruited on both sides of the ball. "That interest started picking up last year. I've always wanted to play college football, but when the schools started contacting me and coming in to see me, I started thinking I really have a good chance."

Gruber has been on several visits, and took in a junior day at West Virginia earlier this year. He wants to check out Temple, and his summer camp plans include potential trips to UConn, Syracuse, WVU and Akron. He believes those camp trips will be good chances for him to show his skills, even though hitting, one of his fortes, isn't a part of camp action.

"I am not a speed guy, but I have a lot of power," he noted. "I have good leg strength and upper body power. I am a good blocker at fullback, and I think I can be a power running back too. A couple of schools are looking at me in that role."

Gruber spoke with WVU defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich on his visit. Kirelawich recruits Pennsylvania for the Mountaineers.

"I played both defensive end and middle linebacker last year, and I think I could play either one in college," he said. "I think I would be more comfortable at linebacker, because my body type right now (6-1, 215 lbs.) is more suited to that. But I would play anywhere that I was needed."

Gruber has no favorites at this point, and is interested in all of the schools that are recruiting him. He plans to use his summer to learn as much as he can about as many schools as possible.

"I am working to get offers, and I don't want to be in a hurry," he noted. "I'll keep doing that and wait and see what happens."

A second team all-conference pick as a junior, Gruber is working to improve his speed and his technique, especially in blocking. As he does so, he is likely to begin getting those offers that he is looking for.

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