PHOENIX — For many seniors on the Baylor football team, the Cactus Bowl will be their last chance to prove themselves on the field. However, they are not the only ones who have one last shot to finish strong as this will also be interim head coach Jim Grobe’s final Baylor game.
Grobe joined the team on May 30, just days after former head coach Art Briles was fired. Although many things may have appeared to be going to against Grobe, he said he was prepared for the challenges to come and was honored to be a part of the Baylor family.
“I really feel like we’ve got a lot of great coaches, and I appreciate them. But it’s all about our players,” Grobe said. “I mean, that’s the bottom line. I feel like I’ve got 100-plus sons right now that I didn’t have a year ago, and so I’ve been so blessed to have the opportunity to work with these young people. We have had a lot of distractions from the outside this year that have been really tough on our players, but watching our guys keep their heads up and coming to work hard everyday — It is going to be good for our young people going forward. In their life when they face adversity, I think that they are going to be better prepared to deal with it.”
When Grobe wakes up Wednesday morning, things will be different. Football, the sport he has lived and breathed as a career will officially come to an end. However, it is a change that Grobe said he is ready for.
“I’ve got to tell you, my wife, Holly, would probably be disappointed that you say this could possibly be my last game. She probably wouldn’t be happy hearing that. But I’ve been so blessed. There’s nobody I appreciate more than Mack [Rhoades] and the opportunity that he’s given me to coach these guys since he’s been here,” Grobe said. “It’s going to be strange, but at the same time I have had a couple years of practice. The difference is, in coaching you basically have 12 months mapped out every year,” Grobe said. “You know exactly what you’re going to be doing every month. When you are retired, you just wake up and decide what you are going to go do.”
Although much has been happening off the field, senior cornerback Ryan Reid said it was Grobe and the coaching staff’s continuous belief that allowed them to keep moving forward, and that is what he will remember as he steps onto the field for the final time tonight against Boise State.
“Coach Grobe coming in, the spiel we had after winning six, the whole thing with the coaches in May, and just the excitement we had the years before. It’s so much to remember and so many memories I’ve made with these teammates and my coaches. It’s exciting,” Reid said. “After the games, you know, in the locker room, you know, they were always heartbroken. You could see it in their faces because I know they love us with a passion. We know they’ll go to the end of the earth for us. And that’s what kept us going and kept us fighting.”
Although Grobe will be leaving Baylor’s football program, he said he knows the team will be in good hands as he leaves.
“There are too many positives at Baylor right now going forward. I think we have hired a really good coach in Matt Rhule. Our athletic director, Mack Rhoades, is very special. We have become really good friends,” Grobe said. “The direction for the program going forward is unlimited. Baylor is a place where you can really and truly one day compete for national championships … Going forward, I can’t think of any better place to get a degree from and play football than Baylor.”
Staying true to his character, Grobe said although he would love to finish his career as head coach with a win, the players deserve it more than he does.
“They’ve been through a lot. They’ve had a lot of adversity. They’ve persevered,” Grobe said. “If we could go out with a win for these guys, the most special part for me would be for these guys to get a win in their last game this year.”
However, while Grobe wants the win for his team, senior outside lineman Kyle Fuller said he wants it for Grobe.
“Coach Grobe came out here and helped us out tremendously,” Fuller said. “He’s a great guy, and it would mean a whole lot for us give him this W.”
At the end of the day, Grobe said he will always be there for his team as they continue their journeys through life.
“I care about them, and I am here for them going forward. Any time they need me, I’ll be around, but I think they know I didn’t come in with any ulterior motives than to help. I really think they know I care about them as people and not just as football players,” Grobe said. “When I first came in, I didn’t know a single player’s name, so that was a big challenge. Then they put uniforms on, and I had to learn their numbers. Then, even at that, we started switching numbers around with our scout team kids. It has just been a blessing for me to be around a group of some of the most wonderful kids I have ever had the chance to coach.”