Archive for Thursday, June 22, 2006

Warm Wisconsin welcome

June 22, 2006

Not too many people are fortunate enough to begin their summer at a National Football League camp. However, Mike Grossner is.

The Baker University head football coach spent seven days visiting his friend and NFL head coach Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, Wisc.

"Mike McCarthy invited me up to spend some time there," Grossner said. "He said come on up and spend a week up here during their mini camp."

Grossner and McCarthy were teammates at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College. McCarthy then came to Baker University and graduated from in 1987. He was then hired by the Green Bay Packers in January.

The decision on whether to go was simple for Grossner.

"I haven't seen Mike personally in a long time, but we talk on the phone quite a bit," Grossner said. "I went up there to see him and maybe learn the ropes on how the Packers' organization works."

After returning home in early June, Grossner recalled what a wonderful trip it was for him.

"For me, it was an absolute dream," Grossner said. "I envisioned certain things and everything was above and beyond what I envisioned. To me, the Green Bay Packers are the pinnacle of football."

Learning from the pros

During his seven days in Green Bay, Grossner was treated like one of the Packers' staff. McCarthy allowed his friend to be one of them for a week, while also letting him learn.

"I was trying to be stay out of their way, but be as involved as I can without bothering them," Grossner said. "Mike was good. He set me up with an office adjacent to his. I had my own plasma TV, with my computer and phone."

The office and equipment also allowed Grossner to take care of business at Baker during his trip.

"I was able to do business here (Baker), to keep status quo here as well as dive into football 101," Grossner said. "That is what I called it. I bet I spent 70 hours in the office or on the practice field just learning the ins and outs of schemes."

Grossner traveled to Green Bay during one of the Packers' mini camps. He did not help with the camps, but instead became a fan and observed their practice.

"I tried to be a gnat and hang out, without bothering them too much," Grossner said. "I had to find my times to question and pick them.

"I was on the sideline observing," he said. "I was hands off as far as the coaching part of it. I was just able to get closer than the average fan. I was able to eat meals with the coaches and players in a casual manner. Other than that, I was held up in an office."

His time in the office was spent watching and analyzing hundreds of football plays from the past year or two.

"I looked at every Green Bay Packer practice since Mike has been there," Grossner said. "I looked at every San Francisco 49ers play the that was played last year, because that's where Mike was last year. That was about 947 plays. I analyzed ever Atlanta Falcon's play, because Mike's offensive coordinator is from there. Then I kind of formulated a plan based off that."

While at the camp, Grossner tried to convert the NFL style and terminology to his style at Baker. One example of that is the west coast offense, which Baker partially runs.

He learned how the pros run it and then changed their jargon into Baker's lingo for the offense. He also tossed ideas around with Shawn Slocum, special teams coach, since Grossner handles most of the Wildcats' special teams.

"I reaffirmed that we are doing it the right way," Grossner said. "That's what I came away with from my trip. I picked up some good ideas from that level, because you can always learn."

Some of the best time spent on the trip for Grossner, was sitting down and talking with McCarthy on a personal level. Grossner stayed at McCarthy's house during the trip, making the little time away from the field, even more special.

"I was able to throw things off different coaches on their staff," Grossner said. "It was neat for me to sit there with Mike during quiet times and talk about head coaching, because he's never been a head coach. Now he's probably jumped into the biggest limelight head-coaching job in America.

"He's going through some new experiences. It was neat to sit there and be a sounding board for him," he said. "I got to stay with him at his home, so there was a little bit of off time that we could get to know each other again."

Leaving Lambeau Field

The hardest part of Grossner's trip was leaving. On his final day in Green Bay, he took a tour of the stadium, Lambeau Field.

"I hadn't stepped foot on Lambeau Field until the day I left," Grossner said. "I had a tour planned all week with Mike's personal assistant, but we were both busy. On Friday we went on a tour and it was amazing. That was the exclamation point on the week."

The best part of the tour was walking through the players' tunnel and out onto the field of the historic stadium.

"I actually got to walk through the tunnel that the players walk through," Grossner said. "Man, my heart was racing. You could hear the click-clack of the cleats. Then I walked straight out on the field and it sucked the air out of me. I was like 'wow, this is it. This is what you see on TV.'"

After the tour, Grossner left the stadium and city on his way back home. It was a sad trip home, especially when he left Green Bay.

"I left right after the practice and driving out of there was sad," Grossner said. "As I was driving out of town reading the street signs, there was this big let down that I had to leave. I was like a little kid in a candy store and all of my candy got taken away. I was like coming down off of a sugar high."

Despite the feeling of sadness, Grossner said he plans to take another trip to Green Bay before the season starts.

"I will probably make one more visit up there for their fall training camp,"

Grossner said. "I want to go through it one more time and learn some more."

The trip gave Grossner a chance to look at the NFL life and what it would be like, in case he ever has the chance to take it.

"If anything, it answered some questions I had about the NFL," Grossner said. "To go and be able to spend a whole week allowed me to dive into the mix of it and answer some things about the process and what goes on there. There are always aspirations about maybe one day coaching at that level at some point. It helped me answer some things about is that the type of life I want to lead?"

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