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Zack Grossi steps in for Jefferson legend with just one season to impress college recruiters.
By Bryan Burns, Times Correspondent
Published August 12, 2007
Jefferson High School quarterback Zack Grossi during practice at the high school.
[Chris Zuppa | Times]
[Chris Zuppa | Times]
Jefferson High School quarterbacks Zack Grossi, Doug Williams and Quinton Williams throw passes at the same time during practice at the high school.
TAMPA - The broad shoulders that sit so prominently underneath the Jefferson football jersey of Zack Grossi will undoubtedly feel a heavier-than-usual pressure come this fall.
Grossi enters the 2007 season in the unenviable position of replacing the Bay area's all-time leader in passing yards (8,018) and touchdowns (83). Stephen Garcia, now a freshman at the University of South Carolina, has left the Jefferson campus, yet high expectations for the Dragons remain. Grossi's job is to step in for Garcia and keep Jefferson's offense firing.
The load of replacing, at least statistically, the county's greatest quarterback could weigh down a lesser man.
But Grossi doesn't see a burden. He sees an opportunity.
"Hey, pressure's what it's all about. If you play quarterback at Jefferson High School, I don't care who you are, you're going to feel some pressure," Grossi said, smiling. "But, I wouldn't have it any other way. I tell the guys: 'You can put it all on me. If you need some extra energy at practice, come to me,' because this is my last shot to go on to the next level."
Grossi, a 6-foot-2, 214-pound senior, got little playing time backing up Garcia last season, but the season wasn't a waste. Grossi used the idle time to absorb everything he could from Garcia. His field presence, decision-making, even workout routines - Grossi took it all in.
"Last year, I was no talk and all ears," he said. "I just listened to everything, trying to pick it all up."
With just one attempt at leading Jefferson back to its first state title game since 2004 while also impressing college recruiters - "Everybody says we love your arm, we just need to see some game film," Grossi said - the talented senior realizes he must make the most of his limited opportunity.
"This is my one chance, my only chance," he said. "It's all got to happen for me this year."
Grossi got a taste of success this spring in a 7-on-7 tournament at USF, leading the Dragons to a 10-0 record and a first-place finish among 35 teams from across the Southeast. It's only the second time Jefferson has won the tournament, according to assistant coach Lane McLaughlin. The first was 2004, the same year of Jefferson's state final appearance.
"That really was an eye opener for us," Grossi said. "It made us feel like we could get something done this year."
Grossi has been opening eyes himself, grabbing the attention of college coaches during the summer with his big frame and strong arm. According to McLaughlin, Colorado State has offered Grossi a scholarship after seeing him in camp and Tulane is looking at him heavily.
For now, though, Grossi's only concern is proving he can be a more-than-adequate replacement for the departed Garcia. It starts in training camp where, for once, all eyes will be on Grossi.
"(When you're the starting quarterback) everybody looks up to you," he said confidently. "Everything you do from the way you stretch to the way you run your gassers ... you always have to show you're a leader. It's a good feeling. I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm glad I'm in a position where I need to be a leader."