2004 Draft Prospect Interview: Jake Grove

In recent years, being tabbed as the best center prospect in a particular draft has been about as meaningful as being named the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination before any votes take place.

But Virginia Tech's Jake Grove is no Howard Dean. Unlike Dean, who was all bluster and little substance, Grove has the goods to back up his lofty status in this year's draft, having proven it again and again on college football fields across the land.

"I consider myself a very aggressive player," the 6-3, 300-pound Grove said. "Every play, I try to keep my guy as far away from the ball as possible. If every player does that, I don't see any reason why we can't be successful on every single play. If my guy's standing up around the pile, I didn't do my job. I want him to be on his back every single play."

That kind of attitude is what is going to help Grove be no less than a second round pick in next month's draft.

Though he has plenty of strength - he increased his bench press from 360 pounds as a true freshman to 500 pounds now - Grove isn't a mauler in the trenches. He's a thinking man's center, beating his man with a combination of brains and brawn.

That is why he enjoyed playing for the San Diego Chargers coaching staff at the Senior Bowl. Grove enjoyed head coach Marty Schottenheimer's cerebral approach to the game.

"I have a lot of respect for them, they've been around the game for a long time and I learned a lot in just a week," Grove said. "And it was good to win. I think we had a good game plan and (Phillip Rivers) got hot. In just a week, our offensive line really came together as a group.

"Coach Schottenheimer taught us a lot of football skills, but he also told us how to be successful in life as well as football."

And Grove has had plenty of success on the football field.

As a redshirt freshman, he saw action in an average of 25 plays per game, then moved into the starting lineup as a guard as a sophomore. He finally moved to center for good two years ago and capped his career off by winning the Rimington Award as the nation's best player at that position last season.

"My sophomore year I played the whole year at guard. I think that really helped," Grove said. "Playing center, you don't have a one-one-one block every play like you do at guard. It was a great advantage for me that I didn't see at the time, but looking back on it the past couple of years, it really helped me as a center."

Though Grove is certainly athletic enough to play guard in the NFL, his future is as a center, since top-flight players at that position have been hard to find. And Grove has been a key component in a line that has helped the likes of quarterback Michael Vick and running backs Lee Suggs and Kevin Jones put up big numbers for the Hokies.

"All of my quarterbacks at Tech were great athletes and could throw the ball really well too," Grove said. "It presented challenges at times because you had to protect all angles because Mike or Marcus (Vick) or Bryan Randall as well. They could make plays with their feet as well as with their arms. I really think it prepared me for the NFL. I think I had a good college career. I wish we could have had some more wins during my tenure. You always want to win."

That's one thing that team's love about Grove, his win-at-all-cost attitude. He's not the biggest, the strongest or the fastest player. But he'll battle all day long.

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