Carrollwood Day: Patriots' quarterback can get physical
TAMPA - This kid isn't your typical quarterback. No, it has nothing to do with his stature, which comes in at 5-foot-6, 180 pounds. That doesn't exactly fit in with your prototypical signal caller, but he makes up for that with football smarts and technique. Instead, Carrollwood Day School's Deuce Gruden is more than willing to stick his nose where it doesn't belong. Rather, where you don't find the nose of most other high school quarterbacks. He isn't satisfied with outwitting an opposing defense with just his arm. He wants to cause mental and physical damage."I like to run people over," Gruden said, barely blinking and a smile growing. "I got my bench (press) up to 350, so I'm not scared of anybody." That's not just lip service. CDS coach Lane McLaughlin sees it daily in practice. "Do you really want to play for a quarterback who won't tuck it up and go the last three yards for a touchdown?" McLaughlin asked rhetorically. "Deuce is going to run over somebody or he's going to take the hit. … When we're down near the end zone and he's running the ball, we know we've got a good shot at getting in because he's got such strength." Don't let that fool you either. Gruden, son of former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, lit up defenses, connecting on 86 of 137 passes for 1,584 yards, 15 touchdowns and only four picks. Yes, the Patriots strong safety and sometimes linebacker has an arm, too. Meanwhile, Gruden's quip about not being afraid pretty much sums up the CDS mentality. "That's how we are," Gruden continued. "We might have low numbers, but every guy on the team packs a different punch." The Patriots will be looking to connect with those punches as they have been elevated to a new classification. Last season, playing in the independent Class 1B, the team went 8-2, reaching the Sunshine State Athletic Conference playoff. That was independent of the FHSAA playoff bracket. They're now in the nine-team Class 2A-District 5 with a shot at an FHSAA playoff spot. Admiral Farragut was the only team to reach the postseason in this group last season, but challenges will also come from Canterbury, Indian Rocks Christian and Bradenton Christian. That push for the state playoffs appears to be the dangling carrot the group is more than willing to chase. "Everyone knows," Gruden implored, "we're just this close to something big happening for the school."