Gino Gradkowski on the rise

University of Delaware All-American center Gino Gradkowski has positioned himself firmly on NFL teams' radar as a middle-round draft target. The younger brother of NFL quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, the 6-foot-2, 300-pounder has visited the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans and is set to visit the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts next week.

He's scheduled to visit the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons the following week.

He has worked out for the Ravens, Titans and the Philadelphia Eagles.

A two-time All-Colonial Athletic Association selection after transferring from West Virginia, Gradkowski has drawn high marks for his blocking, technique and leadership.
The Pittsburgh native ran the 40-yard dash in 5.25 seconds at his campus Pro Day workout and bench pressed 225 pounds 29 times with a 28 1/2 inch vertical leap, an 8-7 broad jump, a 4.78 20-yard shuttle and a 7.75 three-cone drill.

We caught up with Gradkowski for the following interview:

Scout: What kind of football player will an NFL team get with you?

Gradkowski: "I'm just a hard worker, a guy that's blue-collar who comes from a blue-collar family. My dad's been working in the union at the Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh ever since he graduated from high school. I'm a guy who believes in hard work. I've flown under the radar a little bit, but I've got that chip on my shoulder. I definitely want to prove everybody wrong that doubts me, and that the team that takes me is right."

Scout: What are your strengths as a player?

Gradkowski: "I definitely take pride in being athletic. I played basketball in high school. That's where I got my athleticism from. I'm good in space at blocking the secondary guys. I take a lot of pride in my ability to understand offenses and defenses. Mentally-wise, I bring a lot to the table."

"It's good that I played all three inside positions at Delaware. My versatility, bouncing around the inside, obviously helps. Anybody that goes to the NFL wants to be a starter. That's my goal. If I need to be that swing man as a backup my first year, that's fine. I want to compete for a starting job."

Scout: How much does Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's success in the NFL as a guy from Delaware raise awareness about the program?

Gradkowski: "Definitely, Joe did a great job of putting Delaware on the map and the guys before him like Rich Gannon helped put Delaware on the map. It's good football. I played for great coaches at Delaware and I'm proud to be from there. I don't know Joe that well, but he's like a god around Delaware.

Scout: What is it about Pittsburgh as far as producing a lot of good football players?

Gradkowski: "Definitely, my brother plays for the Bengals and he's been a huge help. Growing up in Pittsburgh, all we did was play football, baseball or basketball. Being from the city, we all buy into that mentality of hard work and having a blue-collar mentality. I come from a big family that's all into sports."

Scout: How big an influence is your brother on you?

Scout: "Growing up, I idolized Bruce as a big brother and watched him come up and go to the NFL. I really look up to him. It helps a lot having him as a resource.

"When I go to visit an NFL team, everybody knows Bruce and respects him. They have some great things to say. They know I come from that same breed being from the same family with the same values. They know what kind of guy I am."

Scout: What led you to pick Joe Linta as your agent?

Gradkowski: "I was looking for an agent who's well-respected around the league that knows football, knows about the offensive line and understands the business and is a good person. He doesn't deal with the primadonna type of players that are just in it for the money. He deals with guys like Joe or Matt Birk who are in it because they love to play football. I love the game. And I have a huge passion for the game. That's why I'm doing this, not for the money and the chance to play football for a living."

Scout: What did you study at Delaware?

Gradkowski: "History, but I always wanted to be a firefighter if I didn't make it in football. Just being part of a team and using my physical strength for something good. I would love to coach. I want to be around the game any way possible, but I'm completely focused on making it to the NFL."

Scout: What NFL centers do you emulate?

Gradkowski: "Jeff Saturday, he's a similar size to me and has been in the league a long time. Matt Birk, really any guy who stays in the league for a long time. Hopefully, I wind up on a team with a veteran guy. Baltimore would be a great situation for me. To learn behind Matt Birk would be awesome and be able to pick his brain."

Scout: "How was your visit to Baltimore?

Gradkowski: "It was a great experience, a beautiful facility, everything was first-class. I really enjoyed talking to their coaches and everyone with the Ravens. Baltimore, that's just what football is all about. Places like that and Pittsburgh have that great fan base that cares about their team."

Scout: What are the visits like?

Gradkowski: "It's definitely fun. The first one is kind of intimidating, not knowing what to expect. All the guys I've sat down with are great guys. They're very professional and they expect the best from you. I'm very excited about all these trips. I definitely feel fortunate and blessed to have these trips. I'm taking it all in."

Scout: Once you're established in the NFL, what would you like to contribute to the community?

Gradkowski: "Anything I can do. It would be a great way to give back visiting childrens' hospitals or veterans' hospitals, going around to schools. I know that I would be blessed to be in that situation and should do everything I can to give back. I would want to show the kids at different schools that even though the NFL is hard to reach if you work hard enough you can be blessed and achieve your dream."

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