/seasons/2012/contrib/2012091405qmcu

Denison lineman was down, but not out

More news about: Denison
Tyler Gropp was told to not even think about playing football in 2012. Good thing he had other plans.
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It was an injury seldom seen in sports. An injury that head football athletic trainer Ashley Stambolis described as "one typically found in car accidents."

Tyler Gropp, then a junior for the Big Red, was making his sixth consecutive start on the offensive line, showing promise for a unit that was giving opposing defenses fits.

On Oct. 8 of last year, however, his football future would suddenly change. Blocking a routine running play he had executed so many times before, Gropp felt his foot trapped under a defender, while another pushed him over the pile.

"It was one of our basic run plays," Gropp said. "I'm engaged on a linebacker, and someone came from behind, landed on me, unwarned. It felt like nothing I've ever felt before. Then I'm on the ground, and I don't know how to describe it."

Though he was unsure of the severity of the injury, Gropp could immediately feel the pain shoot through his left leg. As Stambolis made her way her way onto Deeds Field, she first saw the brutality of the collision.

"When I went out, his leg was bent back," she said. "I thought it was ACL or kneecap. But then I could tell his bottom bone and top bone weren't connected anymore, which I've never seen. He dislocated his whole knee."

After seeing this, Gropp was quickly placed in a splint and taken to the hospital to get a full diagnosis. For someone who had never sustained a major injury, Gropp was convinced that it was something less serious.

"It was a weird denial phase I was going through," stated Gropp. "For some reason I thought they would pop (my knee) back into place, and I should be back in a few weeks."

An MRI the following Monday would reveal the real damage. Gropp had sustained a complete tear in his ACL, PCL, and MCL, as well as a slight tear in his meniscus. As doctors explained to head football coach Jack Hatem the devastating injuries, there was a distinct probably that Gropp's football career had come to an abrupt finish.

"Right after the MRI, and the evaluation, the real belief was that this kid probably can't play again," Hatem said. "I really didn't see any way he could go from that day, that injury, to back on the field."

"The doctor said not to even think about football next year," Stambolis said. "Think about rehab, because it's going to be very difficult. Essentially, they put a new knee in there. Just getting him to just be a normally functioning 21-year-old was important."

Yet on that day, Gropp had already made up his mind. Using the same determination that helped him grow from an unpolished freshman to a starter and leader, he was certain he would make it back for his final season in Granville.

"That was all that was going through my mind," Gropp said. "While the doctor was saying the likelihood that I wouldn't play again, in the back of my mind I knew I would be back. My goal was to be healthy by the time fall camp started."

For an injury that should take 12 or more months to recover, Gropp was eager to show it could be done in nine. Following surgery on Oct. 20, Gropp began the long, arduous road to recovery.

At times, it appeared as though little progress was made. Gropp spent the better part of the first two months just working on simply bending and straightening his knee. The next five or six months were used to build up the knee's strength, but the process was not without setbacks.

"After three to four months the healing regresses where things get weak again," Stambolis said. "The ligaments fully attach and they're becoming accustomed to being back together in your knee again. We essentially had to teach him to run and walk."

In spite of the setbacks, Gropp continually made the trek down to the Mitchell Center. So much so, in fact, that Gropp had become a staple in the training room and football facilities. With daily trips to the training room to work on bending, walking, or strengthening his left knee, Hatem was quickly impressed with Gropp's unwavering grit.

"It was unbelievable," he said. "I think he might have drove our training staff nuts. From that first day, even though I felt he might not (play), he always thought he was going to play. There was never a doubt in his mind. His dedication was beyond anything you'd ever expect."

During the summer months, Gropp began to really test out the strength of his new knee. After months of rehabilitation, he was cleared to work on football-specific drills. Through the dog days of summer, Gropp was testing his cutting, increasing his vertical jump, drilling speed, and agility. By the time August rolled around, he was ready to rejoin the team at the start of the preseason. Rather than worry about the potential for any injury complications, Gropp focused solely on the preparation to get himself, and his teammates, ready for another year.

"I came into camp thinking my knee is just old news," Gropp said.

Now almost a year later, Gropp is showing the same tenacity and tough approach that helped him become a steady contributor last fall. With a daily routine of riding the spin bike before practice, and a dose of ice right after, Gropp has resisted any major setbacks. Though he may not have the same role he held last fall, Gropp is more than happy to join his team for one final season in Piper Stadium.

"I'm so happy to be a part of the team again, I love Denison football," he said. "I love being around everyone, and I couldn't imagine a fall season not on this team. That's a testament to this group. They will drive you to get you to do something you never thought you could."

By Braden Layer

Denison Sports Information Assistant

Oct. 13: All times Eastern
Final
Bridgewater State 24, at Mass-Dartmouth 22
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at UW-Whitewater 21, UW-La Crosse 14
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Oct. 14: All times Eastern
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Salve Regina 45, at Nichols 10
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Mount Ida 14, at Dean 7
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at Thomas More 59, Waynesburg 7
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Final
at Maine Maritime 34, Coast Guard 16
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at Finlandia 27, Trinity Bible 21
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Hamilton 28, at Bowdoin 7
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at Delaware Valley 49, King's 14
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Final
at Olivet 47, Albion 26
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at Wesleyan 41, Bates 23
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Union 27, at Rochester 0
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Amherst 40, at Colby 7
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at Western New England 41, Endicott 14
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at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
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Final - OT
at Plymouth State 16, Framingham State 13
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at RPI 27, Ithaca 14
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Hobart 49, at Hartwick 27
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at Ferrum 34, LaGrange 20
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at Carnegie Mellon 42, Geneva 27
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Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
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DePauw 26, at Denison 17
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at Trine 42, Kalamazoo 7
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at Washington and Lee 47, Guilford 26
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at Husson 49, Castleton 0
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Gallaudet 35, at Alfred State 19
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Final
at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
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Brevard 41, at Methodist 17
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at Lebanon Valley 31, Stevenson 24
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Buffalo State 24, at St. Lawrence 21
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Final - OT
at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
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Final
at Randolph-Macon 52, Emory and Henry 29
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at Wesley 29, Kean 9
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at Hampden-Sydney 58, Apprentice 28
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Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
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at N.C. Wesleyan 45, Greensboro 0
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at Westminster (Pa.) 49, Grove City 27
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Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
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at Westminster (Mo.) 56, Crown 15
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 29, Iowa Wesleyan 7
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at Knox 56, Grinnell 14
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at Widener 31, Lycoming 17
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Trinity (Conn.) 23, at Tufts 16
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at Mount St. Joseph 66, Earlham 7
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Final - 2OT
Ohio Northern 27, at John Carroll 20
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Baldwin Wallace 23, at Muskingum 20
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Final
at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
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Rose-Hulman 44, at Manchester 13
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at Hanover 31, Bluffton 28
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Defiance 45, at Anderson 0
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at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
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Hiram 62, at Kenyon 56
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Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
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Williams 27, at Middlebury 26
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at Westfield State 33, Fitchburg State 21
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Marietta 43, at Wilmington 33
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at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
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Curry 40, at Becker 0
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TCNJ 20, at Rowan 14
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Final
at SUNY-Maritime 51, Anna Maria 15
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Salisbury 28, at Montclair State 10
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at Huntingdon 28, Maryville (Tenn.) 16
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at Austin 33, Millsaps 19
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
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Final
at Washington U. 55, Buena Vista 20
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Alma 27, at Aurora 19
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at Rockford 29, Concordia-Chicago 14
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Wisconsin Lutheran 22, at Concordia (Wis.) 19
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at Lakeland 57, Benedictine 21
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at St. Norbert 10, Chicago 0
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Final
Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
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Final
St. Olaf 22, at Augsburg 20
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Final
Bethel 24, at Gustavus Adolphus 3
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St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
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at Eureka 30, Greenville 19
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Final
Centre 27, at Trinity (Texas) 21
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Final
Dubuque 42, at Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Central 30, at Coe 19
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Final
Lake Forest 56, at Cornell 28
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at Carthage 31, Elmhurst 8
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at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
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Millikin 28, at Augustana 27
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Final
Ripon 52, at Beloit 28
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MacMurray 49, at Minnesota-Morris 13
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Final
Macalester 21, at Lawrence 18
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at Monmouth 59, Illinois College 14
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at UW-Stevens Point 26, UW-Eau Claire 3
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Final
Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
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Final
at Wooster 38, Oberlin 28
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Texas Lutheran 41, at East Texas Baptist 34
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at UW-Stout 21, UW-River Falls 16
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
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Final
Sewanee 34, at Birmingham-Southern 13
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Final
at Hope 22, Adrian 3
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Final
Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
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Cancelled
La Verne at Occidental
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Final
Whitworth 17, at Pacific Lutheran 14
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Final
at Cal Lutheran 42, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 20
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Final
at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
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at Pacific 35, Puget Sound 27
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Final
Pomona-Pitzer 45, at Whittier 23
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Final
at Western Connecticut 28, Massachusetts Maritime 21
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Final
at St. Scholastica 56, Martin Luther 21
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Final - 5OT
at St. John Fisher 39, Utica 36
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Final - OT
at Heidelberg 48, Otterbein 45
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Final
at Shenandoah 38, Bridgewater 20
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Final
Southwestern 60, at Belhaven 31
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Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
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at Louisiana College 52, McMurry 34
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at Simpson 38, Luther 17
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at Chapman 45, Redlands 26
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Oct. 16: All times Eastern
3rd - 13:00
13 North Central (Ill.)
7 Wheaton (Ill.)
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Oct. 14: All times Eastern
Final
at Delaware Valley 49, King's 14
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final - OT
at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
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Final
at Wesley 29, Kean 9
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Final
Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
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Final
at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
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Final
at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
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Final
Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
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Final
Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
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Final
at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
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Final
at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
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Final
at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
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Final
St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
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Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
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Final
Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
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Final
Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
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Final
Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
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Final
at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
Box Score
Oct. 16: All times Eastern
3rd - 13:00
13 North Central (Ill.)
7 Wheaton (Ill.)
Audio Live stats Video