Brendan Grube changed sports midway through his Phillipsburg high school athletic career.
But the Stateliner senior didn’t change what he did.
“I played forward when I played soccer and I was the leading scorer on the JV team as a sophomore year,” Grube said, “But I liked the football atmosphere and I love the tradition of Phillipsburg football, and I wanted to be a part of it and be a kicker. So I talked to the coaches a little before my junior year and I loved and I have concentrated all on football.”
The Stateliners are glad Grube did. (He could not have done both; unlike in many states, including Pennsylvania, NJSIAA rules prohibit players from participating in two sports in one season.) He’s become an effective and productive placekicker and, this season, punter for Phillipsburg, which travels to Hillsborough for a Mid-State 38 Delaware Division Friday night (7 p.m.).
Grube has scored 13 points this season for the Stateliners, including a 43-yard field goal against Hunterdon Central.
“Kickers kind of work to the beat of their own drum, in a good way,” Phillipsburg head coach Frank Duffy said. “You don’t know they are there until you need them, but they are a very integral part of the game. And Brendan is a great young man.”
Grube, who also played basketball before concentrating on kicking, comes from solid Phillipsburg stock, as his dad, Edward (Class of ’88) played middle linebacker and guard. And Grube followed his dad on to the football field with a solid, old-fashioned approach.
“I was pretty much self-taught as a kicker,” said Grube, who hopes to continue his kicking career in college. “Before this year I went to camps all summer like Cole’s Kicking camp but not before junior year. I’d watch some videos but I was pretty much self-taught. Place-kicking kind of came naturally to me. And I wanted to do whatever I could to help the team.”
Duffy said it all came from Grube’s desire and drive.
“Brendan’s work ethic is outstanding, and he’s done everything he could to improve himself,” Duffy said. “I think he kicked every day in the offseason. It’s all a tribute to his hard work.”
Grube kicks every day in practice with assistant coach Bruce Morgan and runs through drills. But he said kicking is really pretty simple,
“Once you step on the field it all seems pretty natural,” he said. “Before the game I have a series of stretches I do by myself on the sideline and I stay warmed up and stay moving during the game so I stay stretched out and loose. But you want to take every kick the same, the same mindset, no matter it it’s a long field goal or an extra point. Every kick should be the same.”
Picking up punting has been more of a challenge for Grube.
“There’s more moving parts in a punt and everything happens at once,” Grube said. “In a place kick, you’re just kicking a stationary ball. In a pint there’s the catch, the drop, the kick, you’re trying to kick it away from the returner. It’s harder for punts.”
Punting requires physical strength as well, and Grube has that. The days of scrawny, less-athletic kickers seem to be long gone; the solidly-built 5-foot-10, 175-pound Grube looks like he could fill in just fine at fullback or strong safety with ease. If Phillipsburg ever wanted to fake a kick of any kind and have Grube run, he’d not go down easily.
“Kicking is full-body exercise so anything you can do would help you,” he said. “And as a senior I truy to be a leader on then team, whether on the field or in the weight room.”
Grube said that potential future kickers should keep in mind that the discipline is a “craft” and “there’s more to it than people think,” but that if you take it seriously and commit yourself, anything’s possible.
And the potential rewards are enticing.
“There are a couple of school records but my main goal is to help the team win games,” Grube said. “I was at the 2010 Easton-Phillipsburg game when (Anthony Castro) kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime, To kick any game-winning field is great but to kick the game-winning field goals versus Easton – that would be a kicker’s dream.”
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.