Palmyra native Bobby Gruenloh played Jan. 20 in the National Football League Players Association Collegiate Bowl.
The Rose Bowl has hosted some of the greatest college football games of all time. Some of the greatest players to ever lace up the spikes have roamed the famed stadium.
Former Palmyra football standout Bobby Gruenloh can now say he too has played in the prestigious venue.
Gruenloh, a senior defensive end for Northwest Missouri State, was chosen to participate in the 2017-18 National Football League Players Association Collegiate Bowl.
Gruenloh had his Christmas vacation cut short, but he didn’t mind.
“The head guy in charge of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl gave me a call directly since the coaching staff at NWSU were out of the office,” Gruenloh recalled. “I was pretty excited that out of all the great players they could have invited, I was one of them.
“I was home on Christmas break, and as soon as I got the call, I packed my things and headed back to Northwest to start training.”
Gruenloh appeared in nine games for the Bearcats this past season. He was named as a senior captain and recorded 25 tackles from his starting defensive end position. Gruenloh recorded 8 ½ tackles for a loss including 4 ½ sacks.
In the Collegiate Bowl, Gruenloh split reps with another defensive end. He ended up with a solo tackle for loss.
Gruenloh was on the National team, which won 23-0 over the American team.
“Our coach tried to make sure that we got the same amount of reps,” Gruenloh stated. “I got to play against some really talented people ... a tackle from TCU and one that played at Cincinnati, just to name a couple.”
With Gruenloh playing roughly 50 percent of the reps, the National team held the American team to 115 yards rushing on 39 attempts.
Gruenloh, who was on the field for the opening kickoff, admitted there were some big-time nerves with playing in the game.
“The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Please don’t kick the ball to me,'” he said with a laugh. “But honestly when I first got there during the week for practice, I just thought how awesome it was to have this opportunity and how blessed I truly am.”
Former Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Martz was the head coach for the National team.
Other coaches included Super Bowl champion players Torry Holt and Ray Lewis in addition to current Oakland Raider player Shilique Calhoun and eight-year NFL veteran Don Willis.
“It was just awesome being surrounded by guys that know what it takes to play in the NFL,” Gruenloh said. “And it was some great exposure to play against some really talented players.”
Northwest is one of the most successful programs in the country with 28 conference championships and six national titles on its resume. Gruenloh helped win two of the national championships in 2015 and ‘16. But being part of a Division II program, Gruenloh did not know how he would stack up against a lot of Division I talent.
“I was a little nervous,” he said. “I hadn’t played against really talented offensive linemen, so that first rep was a little nervous just to see the difference between them and your average D-2 lineman.”
After all the workouts and the game itself, Gruenloh received rave reviews of his performance.
“I had multiple coaches compliment my work ethic and attitude on the field,” the NFL hopeful said. “Both of my position coaches were beyond pleased with how hard I worked and how well I took their coaching.”
So what’s next for the former Palmyra great?
“After my last game (at Northwest), I didn’t know if I would get to play again or not,” Gruenloh admitted. “I was back and forth about taking my game to the next level or not. I never really thought about getting an invite to a bowl game.
“Now I am currently training with Colin Bevins, who has just signed with the Cleveland Browns a couple weeks ago. Then I plan on going to the Pro Day in St. Joseph in the next couple months. After that, time will tell.”
He admitted the last four years at Northwest are what put him in the position he is in today.
“It was a great fit for me,” the business major said. “I loved the small-town environment. It’s truly a great place to play with coaches who really do care about you.”