The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 1, 2014

Pro football: Lewisburg man knows highs and lows of football

Daily Item

---- — By Shawn Wood

For The Daily Item

LEWISBURG -- Football is the ultimate team sport.

It's 11 guys on either side of the ball with one common goal -- victory.

The game itself mirrors life to a T: highs, lows, heartbreak, triumphs and tragedies.

It rewards a select few by having their bust placed in the Hall of Fame at Canton, Ohio, while leaving others like Scott Norwood to wonder what might have been.

For Travis Grobes, who was born and raised in Williamsport, football was life to him since his Pee-Wee days.

Grobes, along with five other men from Eastern and Central Pennsylvania, were inducted into the Minor League Hall of Fame in Palm Springs, Calif. on Jan. 9.

It is the second such honor for Grobes, who was elected in 2012 into the American Football Association Hall of Fame.

Grobes, who played his high school football for Pittson Area, nearly saw his football life end on a rainy day in 1996, a day after signing his National Letter of Intent to play on scholarship at Penn State.

"We were playing Hazleton and I was returning a punt and I went to cut and my leg got stuck like a suction cup and I kept going and my leg didn't," he said.

What occurred was a tear of his posterior cruciate ligament, an injury that makes up less than 20 percent of injuries to the knee ligaments.

"I went to Penn State-Hershey Medical Center to get it repaired and I asked the doctor how long I would be out and if he had ever heard of someone coming back from a PCL tear," Grobes said. "They didn't even know how to do the surgery at the time. So they did an experimental surgery on me and I was not supposed to set foot on a football field ever again."

The surgery involved taking the middle piece of the patella tendon and using it to replace the PCL.

It was the start of some dark times for Grobes. He lost his scholarship to Penn State and his daughter, who was born in 1996, passed away the next summer, and his best friend died that August.

"I went into a pretty deep depression and I never thought I would play again," he said. "I wasn't one of those people who was motivated to get back on the field. That wasn't the case. I was done."

Then he meet Jamie, who would become his wife.

"She loves football and I credit her with saving my life," he said. "I don't know what she saw in me, I don't know what her family saw in me. She was 20, I was 22. To fall in love with a guy who had two kids, not doing anything with himself and spiraling out of control, she brought me out of it."

Grobes would honor his eventual wife when he returned to the field in 1999 by wearing her favorite number, 7.

"She said it was her lucky number and we got married on 7-7-07," he said. "I credit everything I've done in my life to football and my wife."

At Jamie's request, Grobes went looking to get back to college to play football when he ran into an old friend after dropping off game film at King's College in Wilkes-Barre.

That chance meeting led to his minor-league career which began with the Wilkes-Barre Blaze and spanned seven years until 2006 when his PCL snapped in his final game. In all, Grobes had three knee surgeries.

Grobes attended Luzerne College and took business courses and on Sept. 11, 2001, he enlisted in the United States Air Force. He earned the rank of Senior Airman. Jamie was in basic training with the Air Force on 9-11.

Grobes played for the Scranton Eagles, Northern Tier Bruins, Southern Tier Green Machine and the Susquehanna Valley Stallions, an eight-man, arena-style football league played outdoors.

He's won three championships as a coach and one as a player. His coaching record stands at 109-42.

"The ultimate goal is to coach in the NFL," he said. "I study the game non-stop. I go to the coaches clinics, I've been a drill coach at the NFL combine, its about exposure."

While in California for the Hall of Fame induction, he was the defensive coordinator for the All Star game in which his team won 38-36. The opposing head coach was Darrell 'Mouse' Davis, the godfather of the Run 'n Shoot offense.

"I tell my kids, 'I can't means I didn't try,' " he said. "I don't feel I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Football is the ultimate team sport. So in order for me to have accolades that I have, so many other people had to do their jobs. It's humbling, but on the same note, I didn't do it by myself. Coaches, players, my wife, my kids, they all made sacrifices. My wife and kids are Hall of Famers."