With Wednesday being National Letter of Intent signing day, Palmyra’s Bobby Gruenloh announced he would be continuing his football career as a member of the NCAA Division II Northwest Missouri State Bearcats.
To set the right tone, Palmyra football coach Kevin Miles borrowed a Northwest Missouri flag and mini helmet from a friend of his in Perry. Miles placed the flag over the Panther scoring table with the mini helmet on top and placed the table in front of the Panthers padded wall backdrop on the basketball court.
“I talked to our AD (athletic director) this morning and asked if it was ok if I do this,” Miles said. “I think Palmyra has got to be in the forefront as that is what made Bobby (Gruenloh) what he is, but when we looked to the future, I wanted people to know that this kid is going to Northwest Missouri State.”
While playing for the Panthers, Gruenloh twice earned All-District honors as well as All-Conference (Clarence Cannon Conference) selection. Gruenloh was also recognized as All-State for helping to lead his team to a quarterfinal appearance in the Missouri State High School Activities Association playoffs. Gruenloh played both offense (tight end) and defense (defensive line) for Miles’ Panthers, but for the Bearcats, Gruenloh will be lining up on the defensive line.
“I have been coaching (Gruenloh) for two years,” Miles said. “We just really knew the potential he had. The coaches and myself sat down and talked to him and told him we know how good you could be. At the time I don’t think he quite did. But for us, when he saw that and realized that, he became the best player he could be. He just started working different and he wasn’t the best player in our conference persay, but I tell you what, I wouldn’t trade him for anyone in our conference.”
Gruenloh made only one visit up north to the campus in Maryville. But, the Bearcat coaches were very involved in trying to entice Gruenloh into joining their team.
“The coaches came up here numerous times,” Gruenloh said. “They talked to me about the school and everything.”
Even the Bearcats’ football players helped out in the recruiting process.
“I got to hang out with a couple of the guys,” Gruenloh said. “I really liked them. They were just like me, small town kids. They told me how it was. They took me out, told me it was fun and showed me everything.”
In that one visit to the campus, Gruenloh quickly knew that was where he wanted to go and that it was a perfect fit. And Northwest Missouri’s winning tradition sure didn’t hurt.
The Bearcats play in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and finished the 2012 season with a 10-3 record. In 2011, Northwest Missouri State went 11-3. The Bearcats won the MIAA conference championship in football every year from 1997 through 2000 and again in 2002 as well as from 2006 through the 2010 season. All ten seasons Northwest Missouri State was undefeated in conference. Since the MIAA was formed in 1912, Northwest Misouri State has won 17 outright conference championships and seven shared conference championships.
“I like the campus,” Gruenloh said. “I like the way it is set up. They have been good for over 16 years and I wanted to go to a good school.”
At roughly 175 miles away, Northwest Missouri State is a good 3-plus hour drive from Palmyra. But even with the distance, Gruenloh expects to stay down on campus most of the time.
“I don’t know if it will be that much of a change,” Gruenloh said. “It is a small town, small town place. I will probably stay down there for a majority of the time.”
For Coach Miles, the recruiting process was one like he had never seen for one of his players.
“It was pretty neat, but it was crazy,” Miles said. “There was just constant phone calls. Everyday it was somebody else. Some schools were kind of in it for the long haul that would call up Bobby (Gruenloh) or myself every stinking day. Even after the point where he had said he was committed, there were still a couple of schools that wouldn’t leave him alone or his family alone.”
Finally Miles had to put a stop to it and give his star player a break.
“I finally just called (the schools) and said he is done,” Miles said. “I said he is going to Northwest Missouri State, so leave him alone and they finally backed off.”
While at Northwest Missouri State, Gruenloh plans to major in physical education.