Eric Peterson, Published August 16 2013
Grothmann's running lanes make NDSU 1,000-yard rushing seasons possible
Grothmann hit the mark in all the important areas on the checklist. He was a talented ball carrier. He played linebacker. He had room to add weight to his frame.
“Now it’s finding that rare breed of a guy that is willing to make that transition and really be unselfish,” said NDSU offensive coordinator Brent Vigen.
Check that off the list, too. While Grothmann rarely touches the ball, he’s been an important factor in the Bison backfield since his freshman season.
“That never was a thought coming in that I was going to be a big contributor carrying the ball,” the senior said during NDSU’s football media day on Friday. “It wasn’t that big of a transition I guess.”
With the spread offense being en vogue, Grothmann is a rarity in the college game these days – a true fullback, whose main focus is to block in the running game.
“It is somewhat of a dying breed,” said the 6-foot-1, 232-pound Grothmann, who had one carry last season for zero yards. “But to run power football or anything between the tackles, it’s nice to have that fullback.”
Grothmann was a power back during a stellar prep career in Hillsboro, N.D. In his final season, he rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 28 touchdowns, helping the Burros to a 9-man state championship in 2008.
He’s added around 30 pounds to his frame since his senior year of high school. The athleticism that made Grothmann an effective prep runner shows up when he’s asked to block on runs to the outside.
Vigen said Grothmann is similar to other fullbacks the Bison have groomed in their recent history. That group includes guys like Lee Vandal, Tyler Jangula and Tyler Roehl, who eventually moved to running back.
Those three players, like Grothmann, all played linebacker in high school.
“That physical nature, as far as being able to evaluate them, came more from seeing them on defense,” Vigen said. “There is a natural carryover there.”
The past two seasons, the Bison have had two backs who rushed for more than 1,000 yards. Last season, it was Sam Ojuri and John Crockett. They both return this season.
“He’s been in front of me in so many key situations,” said Ojuri, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons. “He’s an awesome blocker. He’s usually that spring block. He always gets his job done. … He’s just that all-around fullback that we’ve got to have in the backfield.”
Doing the grunt work isn’t new for Grothmann, who has a background in farming. He still helps raise sheep.
Cleaning grain bins is one of the least desirable jobs that Grothmann has done for farming. In some ways, that task is similar to playing fullback.
“It’s not going to be easy going in there hitting guys that are maybe bigger than you or faster than you,” Grothmann said. “You just have to put your nose in there and get it done.”
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