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Groff comes back strong at Baldwin Wallace

Now knows true meaning of 'student-athlete'

By MIKE POPOVICH GateHouse Ohio Media Published: August 4, 2017 10:00 AM
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Sam Groff made something out of nothing during his last two college football seasons at Baldwin Wallace.

After being without a team for a year, the former Sandy Valley High School player is one of the top linebackers in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

Groff did not play college football in 2015 due to academic reasons. He admits he had a rough freshman year and shouldered the blame.

"I didn't do what I was supposed to do," Groff said during the OAC Football Media Day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "I came to college more for football than academics.

"I learned the hard way."

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Groff took a semester off from college. He had a heart-to-heart talk with his father, John, a longtime Sandy Valley wrestling coach and a two-time national champion at Baldwin Wallace.

"He looked at me and said, 'Do you want to go back?'" Groff said. "I said, 'Yeah.'

"I got my act together and got back into Baldwin Wallace."

Groff and the Yellow Jackets have benefited from it.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2015, Groff led Baldwin Wallace in tackles with 76. He topped that a year ago with a team-best 86 tackles and was a second team All-OAC selection.

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"There have been a lot of mentors who kept me here at Baldwin Wallace and really got me back into wanting to play football here," Groff said. "... It has worked out, and I have had a really good two years. I have one year left and just want to give it my all."

Groff was a versatile two-way high school football player at Sandy Valley. He also played quarterback for the Cardinals and set a Repository East-West All-Star Game record with 318 yards passing in 2013.

The Yellow Jackets have used Groff in their Wildcat formation. He ran for two touchdowns, threw a two-point conversion pass, and successfully converted two fake punt situations last season.

"The coaches saw that I set the East-West passing record and said, 'Hey, let's just give this kid the ball and have fun,' " Groff said. "It has worked out."

Groff and his teammates are going through a period of transition with Jim Hilvert entering his first season as head coach.

Hilvert coached Cincinnati La Salle to Division II state championship game wins over Perry in 2015 and 2016.

"Coach Hilvert is an intense guy," Groff said. "If anything, he has brought intensity and a new spark to our team. Our players have been open to change and we're kind of running with it. We had a great offseason. He has brought a new fire to the team."


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