As kicker Daniel Grochowski continues to prepare for the United States Military Academy Prep School, he will also continue preparing for his future.
His goal began to take tangible shape a couple of years ago. For one week that summer he visited Jamaica. Last summer for one week he visited El Salvador, and next month he will visit Puerto Rico.
No, he is not planning a career in international hotel management, nor is he researching to establish his own travel agency.
He is on a mission, and the mission is, well, a mission.
The 18-year-old will be part of 24 students and six adults who will again help build a school or orphanage, a group which is connected to a Baptist church in Florida. "To be honest,'' he said, "one of the reasons I chose to go to West Point is that when I'm about 35, 40-years-old I want to be in a situation where I can definitely start some kind of foundation, or join a foundation that does mission trips around the world. It's something I've become very passionate about.
"I feel if I go to West Point it will give me a good enough financial situation where I can go and give money to these places and go help all these people. I definitely see myself doing something like this down the line.''
The Black Knights are obviously getting an outstanding recruit, and his ability to kick very long kickoffs, very long field goals and at times very long punts can only help build a stronger Army football team.
He's pretty smart, too.
Grochowski takes part in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, which means come next month he'll be taking exams and essentially be done with classes. He will graduate in early June and report to the prep, now housed at West Point, in mid-July.
Having just completed what he termed his weightlifting season, he is taking a week off to rest his body before he resumes working out specifically on his kicking. "Basically I want to finish out school strong and then work hard,'' he said.
The senior will actually take part with his high school team's spring drills, kicking off to former kick return teammates as well as working on his field goals and punting.
He expects to kick deep into or even out of the end zone every time, he expects to be able to drive field goals from as far away as 65 yards, and said that if he can become more consistent in his punting he can have more boots that go 60 yards with hang time between 4.8 and 5 seconds, as opposed to shanks that travel 30 yards and spend just a few seconds in the air.
"I have a strong foot,'' he said, "and I'm pretty accurate. I'll probably do both, that's my plan, but I'll do whatever they want me to do. I think with my field goal kicking the sky's the limit. Some days my punts are sky rockets, other days they're not.
"I'm ready to go blow up the prep and get straight A's academically.''
Certainly he gets top grades for his public service.
In Jamaica they built a first-level vocational school for the deaf while living at a local orphanage. In El Salvador they stayed at a school and helped one of the local workers fix the foundation of his house.
"He lived in a swamp, and with all the earthquake activity the foundation of the house was giving way,'' he said. "So we basically built a strong wall for him, about eight feet deep. There's no high technology so we just used shovels and hard work. We were digging into dirt, garbage; we even lifted like 400-pound tires out of there. It was a mess.
"His house is stable now. It's not going anywhere. Me and my buddy, the two football players, were always the work horses. Whenever there was any heavy lifting they called us.''
His calling, if you will, was the result of simply hanging out with teammates who attended the church. "Nobody really pushed it on me,'' he said. "I kind of found my own way through it and went from there.''
Black & Gold over the Orange & Blue
He nearly went to the University of Florida before finally decided on coming north. He is serious when he laughs and says he bleeds orange and blue.
Sometimes he still can't believe he won't be part of his beloved Gator Nation. "I never thought it would be a reality of me playing football at Florida. It was like, 'Holy cow. The University of Florida, SEC football, the big-time, three national championships,' and you're going, 'Hold on, let me think what I'm doing here!'
"But in the end,'' he added, "it's life after football that drew my attention to West Point. I'm stoked about going there. I'm excited about doing the whole process of the next step in my life. I'm excited about attending West Point, too. That's something a lot of people wish they could do and they can't.''
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