Bulls' Grothe does it his way
"What he does on the field ..." Hill said, pausing. "Matt does Matt."
That pretty well sums up Grothe's unique style. No play is ever dead for the Bulls quarterback, who finds ways to wiggle out of the hairiest situations and turn it into something big. He usually leads his team in rushing, but can also pass for 300 yards and throw a perfect 25-yard spiral for a game-winning touchdown like he did last week against Central Florida in overtime. Sometimes he tries to force his will too much and ends up turning the ball over.
But Matt doing Matt is never boring.
Friday's game between South Florida and Kansas sets up as an intriguing showcase for Grothe and the Jayhawks' Todd Reesing. Both are unconventional quarterbacks. And by that, of course, we mean: they're short.
Reesing is listed at 5-foot-11, while Grothe is an inch taller. Guys under 6-foot-4 gotta stick together, and Grothe says he watched and admired as Reesing threw 33 touchdown passes last year to lead Kansas to the Orange Bowl.
"I definitely think that shows that it if you can play football, you can play football," Grothe said. "No matter how tall you are."
It's a subject Grothe knows well. He starred under center at Lake Gibson High School in Lakeland, Fla., but a lot of Division I schools saw his size and speed and wanted him to play safety. Grothe said he decided at age 7 that he was going to be a quarterback, so he stiff-armed any thoughts of switching positions.
"I think I've done a decent job of proving those people wrong," he said.
Grothe draws inspiration from another Tampa quarterback: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Jeff Garcia, who's only about an inch taller. And last year, he struck up a relationship with the patron saint of small signal-callers, Doug Flutie.
Grothe keeps in regular contact with the former Heisman Trophy winner and current ABC analyst. Flutie sent him a text message after the Bulls' opening win over Tennessee-Martin that said, "Good win. Way to start things off."
"I think it helps hearing from somebody who was in the same situation," Grothe said. "He was no taller than 5-11 and did great things in his career. It's just a matter of knowing what you're doing and being an athlete."
He's got the athlete part down pat. Grothe rushed for 872 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. The most impressive plays he makes with his feet, though, might be the ones where he somehow escapes a collapsing pocket and becomes an improvisor, able to throw or take off running.
"I still don't know how he comes out of some of the stuff he comes out of," Hill said. "He does a great job of seeing the field."
Perhaps that's just an innate skill. Or maybe his years of karate training helped Grothe develop a sense of avoiding attackers and keeping his balance. He spent 13 years studying karate, eventually graduating to black belt status.
"It probably did help me a lot," he said. "It helped with my flexibility and being faster. I don't know. Everybody is always asking me how I get out of (danger) and see things other people don't."
It's pretty simple. Matt just does Matt.