February 10, 2011

Grochowski chooses The Hudson over The Swamp

It's been a long process for Sarasota (Fl.) Riverview High School kicker Daniel Grochowski and it was clear that the pressure of making a college decision was getting the best of him.

But in all came to an end on Thursday morning, as he gave his verbal commit to play for the Black Knights of Army and attend West Point.

Just yesterday, the 6-foot-3, 210 pound prospect, who has the physique of a linebacker versus kicker was engaged in Florida's final attempt to persuade Grochowski to become a Gator.

Grochowski commitment gives Army another strong recruiting class under Coach Rich Ellerson.

With field specialist Alex Carlton heading into his senior season and Matt Campbell, who handled kickoffs graduating, the staff was surely looking to add talent at that position.

It was the persistence of Coach Clarence Holmes, who has become an impactful recruiter for the Black Knights and played a significant role in Grochowski's decision.

So how did it happen? Daniel Grochowski woke up Thursday morning and decided to be a Black Knight.

"Everything finally clicked and I just felt really comfortable about making my decision to go to Army,'' said the Florida resident. "So I made it.''

He placed a phone call to the coaches' office at 9:30 a.m.

What the Army football team now has (he will report directly to West Point) is a place kicker, who, last season, put 95 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone, made 8 of 10 field goals and punted for an average of 42.7.

Everything finally clicked and I just felt really comfortable about making my decision to go to Army,'' said the Florida resident. "So I made it.

- Army commit & Kicker Daniel Grochowski

His option was to be a preferred walk-on kicker at the University of Florida. As a resident of Sarasota and a lifetime Gator fan, the decision was far from easy.

"It was very tough,'' he said about choosing the Hudson over The Swamp. "Basically it was a win-win. What it boiled down to was fighting for my dream school or being set for life. I wanted to be a Gator my whole life. I grew up watching them and rooting for them.

"But something could happen, and I'd rather be in a situation where I would be sure I had a job after graduation. With Florida it would be hit or miss.''

He hasn't missed much on his kicking.

Calling himself, "a natural kicker,'' he put 80 percent of his kickoffs over the end zone line. One of his field goals was 57 yards.

A soccer player for 10 years before he went out for freshmen football, he gave kicking a shot when his high school coach asked for volunteers. A middle backer and center-mid, the kid could always send the soccer ball soaring.

Now 6-foot-3, 215, he should compete for both kicking spots this summer.

"Coach Ellerson is doing a real good job bringing in quality athletes,'' Grochowski said. "He's going after quality people and I think they're going to be really good with the younger guys coming up. There's more depth, too. So I'm really thinking they are going to start doing big things up there, and I definitely want to be part of that.

"Army is not the SEC, but it's still big-time football. I'm really comfortable up there, and the whole Black Knight Nation was excited about me coming there. It feels good when people are excited about you.''

That of course is only part of what awaits.

"There's such a brotherhood up there,'' he said. "It's an elite group of people and I want to be part of that elite group that people look up to. They teach you to be a leader. And there are so many opportunities. You're open to every opportunity known to man.''

Grochowski's professional ambition is to be a CEO of his own company. In researching the Academy he discovered there are 23 CEOs who are West Point graduates.

Apparently the kid did his homework. "Trust me. I really sat down and had two pages of pros and cons for both colleges,'' he said. "I made sure I made the right decision because I was educated, not because of this or that or what some other person said.''

Two of his uncles served, one in the Navy, another who fought in Vietnam. He will be the first in his family to attend a military academy.

And the first to turn his back on their beloved Gator Nation.

"I'll bleed Orange and Blue the rest of my life,'' Grochowski said with a laugh.

As of this morning, there is now a tinge of Black and Gray.

Grochowski's commitment makes solidifies the depth, quality and speed of Ellerson's second full recruiting season.

Last year's class was equally as talented, perhaps more power and equal in speed, but either way the 2010 and 2011 classes are putting the Black Knights in a position on the talent scale that they have not been in some time.

Of course, as it is with any recruiting class, potential has to eventually become reality.

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