It was a dream turned bad then turned into redemption.
It was a feel good story that had its own twists, and the last one focuses on the redemption.
Razohnn Gross was a two-time state wrestling champion at Don Bosco Prep. He walked on for football in 2013 but never played. Then he was dismissed from football in 2015, having been caught up in an aggravated assault charge with several other players.
After those twists and turns, it looked like college athletics was over for Razohnn Gross.
But if you’re a team that lost a heavyweight as good as Billy Smith was, you don’t just ignore a two-time state champ. And wrestling coach Scott Goodale was willing to do his due diligence with Gross to offer him a second chance, as reported last June.
"We've done our background with him and we've talked to all the right people, all the important people inside the university,'' Goodale said. "We feel good about it. He's been in our room working really, really hard. Nothing is guaranteed. He'll have an opportunity to make our team. That's as far as we'll go for now.... We'll give him a second chance. He'll have a short leash, but I don't foresee any problems. He's very appreciative and he's working hard.''
And last January, in a must-win spot, Goodale’s faith and trust paid off.
Gross did well, picking up steam as he went along. And he became a crowd favorite as the team went undefeated at home. Still....
There was football, that unfulfilled opportunity. And so Gross returned to the gridiron as a walk-on for spring practice. Just as with wrestling, he’d been away from the sport for several years, so it wasn’t a quick and easy fit.
Running backs coach Vince Okruch told nj.com: "He has to get his football legs back. He's a hard-working dude and he's a tough guy, but when you've been away from the game for a while it takes a while to re-acclimate yourself to it.''
But working as a walk-on, but now with a wrestling scholarship in his pocket earned during a 6-1 Big Ten season (14-12 overall), there were number issues that most of us don’t even realize exist. Two sport athletes playing football and receiving scholarships get the award counted against football. Rutgers could not afford to offer Gross the football scholarship and he didn’t want to lose it for wrestling.
At the close of spring practice, Gross spoke with Chris Ash; the numbers caught up with the dream. But wrestling was still there, and now with a scholarship.
And what wrestling program wouldn’t want a two-time state champion?
Wrestling is about blood and guts
Well, at least about blood.
I joined a lot of folks at RWJ University Hospital yesterday to donate blood in a campaign sponsored by the wrestling team. Got to speak with an All American (Ken Theobold) and saw a lot of athletes - not just wrestlers - giving blood. good stuff, good cause.
And most importantly? I got another red shirt for donating. Man, I didn’t realize how much I needed another...red...shirt!