By Ben Murphy
When asked to describe the Clare County Review’s Offensive Football Player of the Year in one word Clare football head coach Kelly Luplow had to think carefully.
“Relentless,” he said. “He just has a never quit attitude on the football field and in life. Every team keyed on him and he still rushed for that many yards. He wanted it and he wasn’t going to let anybody stop him. Without a doubt he was a workhorse on offense. He was as tough a running back that we’ve had here in a long time.”
The Pioneer senior running back rushed for 1423 yards on 237 carries for 16 touchdowns this season, helping the Pioneers go undefeated in Jack Pine Conference play and finish the season 7-3 overall after falling to Reed City in the opening round of the playoffs. Gross had big games of 231 rushing yards against Roscommon and ran for 178 yards in a crucial win over Meridian.
“It was a lot of pressure but I loved it,” Gross said of being the team’s main offensive threat. “I just felt like when I had the ball I was kind of responsible for that moment. I just tried to run my hardest and depend on my lineman. I think it worked out well. It was definitely a blast getting all those carries.”
Gross added that he felt the Clare football program’s lofty expectations year in and year out were his driving point to becoming a sound football player.
“It has to start with the coaching,” he said. “The expectations when we got here as freshman was to work hard, win conference and make the playoffs. That just drove us.”
Luplow noted that it was Gross’ strength that moved him ahead of other ball carriers in the area.
“He’s extremely strong and has decent speed,” he said. “He’s just one of those guys that you know if you put the ball in his hands it’s going to be positive yardage. When he got tackled he punished the tackler more than he got punished I guarantee you that.”
Adding to his toughness was his ability to play though a hip injury, an injury that derailed his junior season by missing four games.
“I took baseball off (last spring) and focused on getting back to football,” Gross said. “At times this season it bothered me but it worked out well. I’m glad I put the time over the summer to prepare for the season, it worked out well.”
Gross, who plans to return to the baseball diamond this spring can’t believe how quickly his high school football career went by.
“Our coaches said all the time it will go by quick,” he said. “You don’t think that until the last game hits and then all of a sudden you’re done. It’s definitely pretty sad and I’m definitely going to miss football.”
Luplow knows the Clare football team will miss him as well.
“We’ve had Jordan on varsity for three years,” Luplow said. It’s tough to replace kids like that. We will, we always do it’s just not an easy thing to do.”