— Ethan Grunkemeyer (@e_grunkemeyer) June 13, 2023
The Elite 11 Finals are a premier high school quarterback showcase. Although Grunkemeyer’s head coach, Wade Bartholomew, might have seen things differently, the words “premier high school quarterback” weren’t ones that the average recruiting follower would have applied to Grunkemeyer last fall.
Grunkemeyer’s first DI offer didn’t come until October of his junior season, and that was from Miami of Ohio, which is inside Grunkemeyer’s home state but outside of the Power Five.
Now, Grunkemeyer surely would have enjoyed offers from schools such as his boyhood team, Ohio State, but he wasn’t discouraged.
“For me, it was always just ‘keep working,'” Grunkemeyer told Nittany Sports Now. It’s (playing major college football) always been a dream of mine since I was a kid watching it on TV. I felt if I worked toward it, I could accomplish it. That’s just kind of my thing is just put my head down and keep working towards it.”
Four-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll— born and raised in Cleveland— once said, “Good things happen to those who hustle.”
Grunkemeyer, a product of Olentangy High School in Lewis Center, Ohio, hustled, and good things started happening.
In early April, he got his first Power Five offer from Northwestern.
By the end of the month, he had an offer from Penn State.
By the end of May, the three-star was committed to Penn State.
Like many Ohioans, ‘Grunk’ grew up a Buckeye fan.
But Bartholomew, said Grunkemeyer’s had a fondness for Ohio State’s Big Ten rival.
“Penn State’s been a place that Ethan has absolutely loved for a long time,” Bartholomew told NSN. “I mean, obviously, he’s an Ohio guy, Ohio State’s a school that he likes, but Penn State’s been a place that he’s always followed a lot as a kid.”
“It was one of my dream schools growing up as a kid,” Grunkemeyer said. “I just fell in love with the place, and I felt really close with the coaches and built a relationship with them. All of the points lined up, and I felt ready.”
So what can Grunkemer do as a quarterback?
“I think he’s an elite ball thrower,” Bartholomew said. “I think he can throw the crap out of it. He’s very accurate. He’s got an extremely strong arm. He makes every throw on the field look effortless. But he’s a cerebral kid. He’s a good athlete, but he doesn’t play as an athlete. He plays more as a pocket quarterback that sits back and just kind of lets his arm do the work.”
“He’s a thrower, man. He can sling it.”
A big reason for Grunkemeyer’s improvement is his work with quarterback instructor Brad Maendler.
Maendler is the owner of QB Excelerate who is best known to Penn State fans with his work from another son of Ohio, Drew Allar.
Grunkemeyer said Maendler has “helped me tremendously”
“Just the improvements I’ve seen in my game the past couple of years have just been awesome,” he said. “Just the consistency he’s helped me with. Accuracy, velocity. So just kind of all of those things. The consistency piece is huge with him. It’s been awesome.”
Grunkmeyer’s worked out and conversed with Allar multiple times, and one would think that relationship continues to grow between now and December’s early signing day.
“I wouldn’t say I talk to him every day,” Grunkemeyer said, “but we talk a good amount, and I’ve built a good relationship with him. I ask him any questions I have and get a good answer to them.”
So how would one describe Grunkemeyer’s personality?
Bartholomew laughed when asked the question.
“All quarterbacks are prima donnas, right?,” he said. “So if we put the highest-ranking prima donna at a five, Ethan sits about a two and a half. He’s a football-minded kid. He’s always watching football. He’s always wanting to talk football.
”He has those prima donna moments like every quarterback where he wants to look cool, or he wears shiny shoes to prom and those kinds of different things, but as a personality, he’s an awesome kid. He walks around school with a smile on his face. Every time he sees you, he makes your day because he lights up. He wants to talk to you. He wants to have something to say.”
We’ll know in a few days what people will be saying about Grunkemeyer after the Elite 11 finals.
Whatever happened, Bartholomew feels that this is a chance his quarterback has earned.
“I think he deserves this chance,” Bartholomew said. “I know it was a life long dream of his. He was obsessed with it. My hope is that it just continues to build his confidence in himself. He is going to be able to compete out there with the best of the best and that is an awesome experience. I’m excited for him and can’t wait to watch it all.”
Grunkemeyer grew up loving Ohio State, and there’s still time for Ohio State to offer him if it chooses to.
But Grunkemeyer is excited to be a Nittany Lion.
He was in Beaver Stadium the last time Penn State beat Ohio State, and hopes to be a part of plenty more Penn State wins, this time as a player.
“I grew up watching them (Ohio State),” he said. “They were my favorite team. But I’m just thankful to have the opportunity to play for Penn State. I’m going to just go out there and show what I can do. I’m just excited to be a Nittany Lion. So it’s not really something I look back on and say, ‘I wish I would have had an Ohio State offer.’ I’m super happy with where I’m at.”