/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. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
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Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 29, Westfield State 14
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Moravian 20, at Juniata 17
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at Salve Regina 41, Endicott 14
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at Thomas More 63, St. Vincent 13
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at Union 28, Hobart 23
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at Hamilton 27, Colby 24
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at Christopher Newport 27, William Paterson 19
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at Ithaca 35, St. John Fisher 10
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at Allegheny 44, Kenyon 35
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SUNY-Maritime 21, at Mount Ida 13
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Middlebury 43, at Bates 14
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at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
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at Amherst 21, Wesleyan 17
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at Trinity (Conn.) 63, Bowdoin 14
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Husson 48, at Gallaudet 21
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Wabash 35, at Oberlin 21
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at Utica 34, Buffalo State 12
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Ohio Northern 7, at Muskingum 6
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at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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at Stevenson 26, Albright 23
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Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
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at Albion 31, Alma 28
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at Guilford 45, Shenandoah 20
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Plymouth State 40, at Massachusetts Maritime 14
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Wooster 58, at Hiram 25
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Washington and Lee 36, at Hampden-Sydney 6
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at Anna Maria 36, Alfred State 34
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Bridgewater 31, at Emory and Henry 23
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at FDU-Florham 49, Wilkes 31
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Lebanon Valley 17, at Misericordia 0
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at St. Lawrence 36, Rochester 14
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RPI 30, at Alfred 15
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at Curry 46, Nichols 16
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at Salisbury 42, Southern Virginia 0
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Ferrum 27, at Brevard 24
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Randolph-Macon 63, at Apprentice 14
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at Susquehanna 21, Ursinus 14
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Cortland 34, at Morrisville State 20
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at Trine 50, Hope 14
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Trinity (Texas) 27, at Sewanee 21
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Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
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at Franklin and Marshall 56, Dickinson 0
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Tufts 21, at Williams 13
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Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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MIT 30, at Coast Guard 21
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at Norwich 24, Maine Maritime 22
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at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
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Franklin 29, at Rose-Hulman 22
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John Carroll 48, at Capital 21
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at Manchester 28, Bluffton 21
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Mount St. Joseph 71, at Anderson 27
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UW-Whitewater 20, at UW-River Falls 7
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Kean 26, at TCNJ 3
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at LaGrange 59, Greensboro 10
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at Worcester State 45, Mass-Dartmouth 40
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Muhlenberg 40, at McDaniel 13
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Final
Western New England 45, at Becker 0
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Final
at Maryville (Tenn.) 35, Methodist 14
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Adrian 36, at Kalamazoo 22
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Final
Denison 31, at Ohio Wesleyan 20
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Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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Final
at Benedictine 43, Olivet 37
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Birmingham-Southern 31, at Austin 24
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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at UW-Stout 23, UW-Stevens Point 17
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Eureka 37, at MacMurray 20
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at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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Nebraska Wesleyan 14, at Buena Vista 13
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Lakeland 48, at Wisconsin Lutheran 0
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at Aurora 28, Rockford 21
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at Concordia-Chicago 37, Concordia (Wis.) 17
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at St. Olaf 29, Carleton 26
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at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
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Final
St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
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Final
Westminster (Mo.) 24, at Greenville 14
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at Loras 44, Coe 38
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Monmouth 61, at Cornell 10
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Wheaton (Ill.) 56, at North Park 0
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Final
Northwestern (Minn.) 30, at Martin Luther 14
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Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
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Final
at Lake Forest 70, Grinnell 6
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Final
at Millikin 56, Carroll 35
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Final
at Macalester 47, Ripon 31
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at St. Norbert 38, Lawrence 6
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St. Scholastica 49, at Crown 21
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at Iowa Wesleyan 24, Minnesota-Morris 17
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UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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Final
at WPI 41, Merchant Marine 7
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Final
at Centre 42, Rhodes 35
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Final
Hanover 49, at Earlham 14
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Final
at Chicago 55, Beloit 12
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
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Final - OT
at Dubuque 28, Simpson 27
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
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Final
at East Texas Baptist 68, Louisiana College 35
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at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
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Final
Western Connecticut 27, at Bridgewater State 20
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Chapman 38, at La Verne 21
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Pacific 17, at Lewis and Clark 7
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Pacific Lutheran 27, at Willamette 14
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at Whitworth 38, Puget Sound 23
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Redlands 42, at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 25
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at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
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Sul Ross State 52, at Howard Payne 15
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at Castleton 17, Dean 14
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N.C. Wesleyan 21, at Averett 15
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at Otterbein 37, Baldwin Wallace 29
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Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
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Carnegie Mellon 42, at Thiel 10
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at Illinois College 23, Knox 13
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at Cal Lutheran 60, Whittier 34
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Cancelled
Occidental at Pomona-Pitzer
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
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Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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Final
at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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Final
Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
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Final
at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
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Final
Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
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Final
Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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Final
at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
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Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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Final
St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
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Final
at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
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Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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Final
UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
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Final
at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
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Final
at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
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Final
Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
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