York's Grouwinkel ready for a change.(SportsXtra)
Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
October 29, 1999 | Bush, JoeByline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer
The coach who made up plays on the spot, who never met a formation he wouldn't try, who is one of the last to quick-kick on third down, who employed the first female in DuPage County to score points in a high-school varsity football game, isn't sure what he'll do next.
York coach Gary Grouwinkel will coach the final game in a 41-year career some time in the next five weeks, then....who knows?
"I want to go do something else," Grouwinkel said after his team clinched a playoff berth with a win over Glenbard West last Saturday.
"I've had enough of it. Forty-one years. I don't know, I might go coach somewhere else. I just want a change, and go do something else."
After Grouwinkel helped Iowa win the 1959 Rose Bowl as an offensive guard, he coached at two Iowa high schools through 1964, winning a state title with Ottumwa in 1963.
He left the prep scene to coach the offensive line for the University of North Dakota, then coordinated the offense for the University of Arizona, returned to Iowa as offensive-line coach, moved to Northwestern to coordinate the offense from 1969 to 1971, and finished his college career as Florida State's offensive coordinator.
Grouwinkel coached Prospect High from 1976 to 1981, then moved to Elmhurst in 1982.
As his last York squad heads to Hinsdale for tonight's 7:30 first-round Class 6A playoff game against heavily-favored Hinsdale Central, Grouwinkel's Illinois prep coaching mark is 179-98-3.
"(Players) believe in him," says York assistant Terry Clarke, who has coached with Grouwinkel since 1981. "They think no matter what happens, we have a chance to win the game.
"No matter what defense (opponents) line up in, or how good their personnel is, he can come up with a scheme to move the ball."
Grouwinkel is a bit of a surprise in two ways: though he comes from an era of conservatism, he has been an offensive innovator, and despite his growl and temper, he is a grandpa in the most Norman Rockwell sense of that word.
He's said his unpredictable play-calling was a result of the mediocre talent he coached in college.
At the high-school level, he played smashmouth when he had that type of player, but always enjoyed the most the seasons he had a passer and receivers.
Greg Fisher caught 68 passes from George Valaika in 1986, and 1997 Daily Herald Player of the Year Tim Stratton earned a scholarship to Joe Tiller's pass-happy Purdue program with his two-year effort in Grouwinkel's system.
Grouwinkel kept West Suburban Silver rivals on their toes with his affinity for calling anything at any time in any set.
He used fumblerooskis and the "polecat" formation, and before a rule change mandated that a substitute come within 10 yards of the huddle, Grouwinkel might hide a receiver inches from the sideline during a swarm of substitutions, then send him downfield.
In 1997, former soccer standout Rachel Bruesewitz won York's place-kicking job, and helped the Dukes reach the playoffs. Grouwinkel said at the time he never considered the gender issue.
"Hell, we wanna win," he said in a 1997 article. "I don't care who helps us win. If she's not the best, she's not gonna do it."
It was a typical Grouwinkel statement; gruff and direct. That tone and his refusal to pamper players or clean up his language was the best evidence of his background, but it also belied the nice guy within.
"Sometimes it's hard to see through that," Clark says. "A lot of times kids don't have that great foresight. They think for today, but everybody that's ever played for him, they all come back every year to thank Coach Grou and his staff for the experience they've had."
"Our junior year we were all pretty scared," says Dukes senior quarterback Brad Ryan. "When he gets mad at you, he gets mad, but we get used to it after two, three times of him yelling at you.
"You've just got to take what he says, then go out there and play the best you can."
Downers Grove North and Glenbard West honored Grouwinkel (just before he coached his team to victories) at their fields, as did York, but the biggest deal will happen long after the Dukes' season ends, whether it's tonight or five weeks from now in Champaign.
There will be a retirement party in the spring, with as many former players as can make it. An All-Grou squad could be picked, says Clark.
After that, Grouwinkel will draw his next move in the dirt, then say, as he does before calling most plays on the sideline, "Here we go."
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