Editor’s note: This is the second part in Skyline Sport ‘ INCREASED EXPECTATIONS Series about griz football players likely to see higher roles for Montana this season.
Mike Grossman is sitting in a red camping chair behind one of the corners of the end zone at Dornblaser Feld. He stares straight ahead and watches Montana’s fall practice under the brim of a baseball cap. Two basset hounds frolic at his feet.
Otis and CJ stir for a minute when a reporter shows up. They circle around each other, a furry yin and yang, wrap their leashes around Mike’s chair and bark at the interruption.
Mike pulls a McDonald’s cheeseburger out of his pocket, tears it perfectly in half and hands it out to the dogs, who breathe in their basset happy meals in about five seconds and then sit back down, head to tail – one of them is looking at the field , the other disinterested away.
“They like to watch football,” says Mike, “but they hunt dogs. You’d rather hunt a bunny. “
Mike, almost six feet tall, looks like a bouncer – round chest, bald head, big biceps – but speaks sotto voce. Sometimes it takes an effort to hear him, even when his son, Redshirt newcomer Cole Grossman, takes a deep dive to catch a touchdown in the 11v11 drills of the red zone towards the end of practice.
That was a familiar sight around Dornblaser for the first two weeks of fall camp – nothing Mike, who drove a semi-trailer from the family home in Vancouver, Washington, to Missoula for a few weeks to watch fall practice, has’ before not seen. C.
Old Grossman, tall and lanky with curly black hair, was perhaps the greatest revelation in the fields at Dornblaser so far, working with the starters and seeing many goals. With good speed and hands at 6-foot-4, he was the team’s most dangerous receiver at times as Montana’s fall camp lasted two weeks that weekend.
“We were without pads for two days, but Cole did a good job,” said head coach Bobby Hauck in the first week of training. “He’s a hard worker. He’s a good athlete and has done some good things. “
Grossman’s outburst heralds an interesting time for tight ends in Montana. Bob Stitt is known to have eliminated the role in the mid-2010s, relegating the existing players to the position of defense or wide receiver.
That made it a big act when Hauck took the lead again in 2018 and started recruiting tight ends again – but the game has changed since the last time Hauck was in Montana.
Montana tight end Cole Grossman pictured against Portland State / by Brooks Nuanez in the spring of 2021
When Pokey Allen and current Griz Defense Line coach Barry Sacks recruited Mike Grossman from Walla Walla Community College to Portland State in the early 1990s, the narrow-ended job description was easy to formulate.
“You had to block. They had to catch, ”said Mike, who followed Allen and Sacks to Boise State for a year before moving back to Portland State to end his career.
This is increasingly not the case. Players like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates started the revolution. It was followed by Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and Kyle Pitts. And now most tight ends are wide receivers rather than offensive linemen.
At £ 220, Cole Grossman could be next to a modern tight end that Hauck ever had in Montana: spreading out across the formation, creating imbalances and catching lots of passes – ironically, pretty close to what Stitt envisioned the role for tight ends receivers like Colin Bingham.
“(The Tight Ends) are one of our younger groups, but they have skills,” said Hauck. “Cole, in this group we have more skills than we have before. We hope that shows up. Physical maturity must come. “
During his first tenure in Montana, Hauck recruited and developed the hulking in-state tight-end products Steven Pfahler, Dan Beaudin and Greg Hardy, all three weighing more than 260 pounds, all three exceptional in-line blockers, and all three, who got a chance at the NFL.
Cole Grossman during his senior year at Skyview High in Vancouver, Washington / contributed
Since Cole is possibly the very first freshman in the fourth year in Montana football history – between a gray shirt in 2018, a red shirt in 2019, and COVID in 2020, he has only played in three games for the Griz and has a career reception – The best evidence of his athleticism and potential fame can be found either on Dornblaser or on Youtube.
Mike recorded all of Cole’s games at Skyview High School in Vancouver – soccer and basketball – and his YouTube page is littered with clips from Cole’s big games. Like the video, aptly titled “Cole Grossman ‘Massive Dunk'”, which Mike sold with the zeal of a street preacher.
Did you see it? You should check it out.
The highlight does justice to the billing. Cole cuts the lane, catches a pass, lifts off the volleyball end line in the middle of the suit, hits a defender in the air and rams him over him with his right hand.
“Ohhhhh my goodness!” the announcer cheers. “Okay! Cole Grossman just put this man on a poster!”
Then there are the football highlights, followed by heavy rock music, a few minutes at a time from Cole, who ran past him and jumped over surpassed high school defensive backs.
Cole played receivers in high school, but Skyview also put him on the defensive on third downs. Some FBS schools looked at these highlights and thought he might be a pass rusher at this level.
Cole had already signed up to Montana, following in the footsteps of Griz O-lineman Skyler Martin, a Skyview alum and one of Cole’s best friends (former Griz All-Big Sky recipient and returnees Ellis Henderson also went to Skyview). But the Grizzlies had to fight to keep Grossman.
Once Boise State flew to Vancouver to visit the Grossmans. Montana’s trainers heard about it, and by the next day a couple of Griz assistants were in the Grossmans house.
“Skyler went to the same high school as me and said it’s great out here and they want to win football games,” said Cole. “That’s all I want to do.”
He wore a gray shirt in 2018 because of his grades. Montana put him on defense in 2019, and he played Oregon in the third game of the season before missing the rest of the year with injuries.
Montana tight ends trainer Bryce Erickson / contributed
Grossman only played situationally defense in high school and always considered himself a receiver. Even as a defensive end, he trained before and after training, running routes with quarterback Cam Humphrey, another Washington (Issaquah), and needling the offensive coach.
Hey do you need a tight end? Are you making me insult?
“No offense,” said Grossman, “but I’m not a great defensive guy.”
Montana put him back on the offensive in mid-2019. The Griz might have found their new tight end with it.
“Have you ever seen anyone do that? Switch from defense back to offensive? That never happens, ”said Mike and pulled his chair and the dogs behind the goalposts to watch the kickers at the end of the training session.
“It was really cool to be back, to go back on the offensive,” said Cole. “It’s not the path everyone goes, but I think it has helped me mature a lot and learn a lot, just get involved in the program and be a team player. … I’m a (starter) right now and I want to do my best to keep it and if I go under I want to race to get it back. “