Steve Grogan was inducted as a part of the inaugural class of K-State’s Ring of Honor in 2002. One of the best quarterbacks in Kansas State history had a noteworthy and successful career in high school, college, and the NFL. I learned quite a bit about the career of Steve Grogan when putting this post together. One of the unanticipated things I learned about him is that he’s a quote machine. There are scads of Steve Grogan interviews archived online and because of that, this post is quite a bit longer than usual. Hope you enjoy reading and learning a little bit more about K-State great Steve Grogan.
“Steve Grogan was active in sports at Ottawa High School and helped led the Cyclones to state championships in basketball and track. He was a member of National Honor Society and was named Mr. O.H.S.”…https://www.usd290.org, December 2, 2019.
JM: Grogan led Ottawa High School to the Class 3A state championship football game in 1970, losing 21-12 to Emporia. He knew he wanted to go to college at K-State, but decided to give KU a visit just to see what they had to say…..
“Two assistant coaches met with me in some small room under the stadium. They locked the door and said, “Here’s the deal. You aren’t leaving until you sign with us.” I was kind of scared, and wasn’t sure what to do. I just sat there. I was thinking, “How do I get out of here in time to meet Vince Gibson for dinner later in Ottawa?”…Steve Grogan, Manhattan Mercury, February 23, 2019
JM: A strange recruiting tactic by the University of Kansas coaches, don’t you think? Football coaches in Lawrence have never figured out how to successfully recruit in football.
“I was a pretty good athlete. We ran the ball a lot in high school, and while at Kansas State we ran the option offense. “…Steve Grogan, ESPN.com, November 28, 2000
JM: Interesting that K-State went from having the best pocket passer in Big 8 history in Lynn Dickey to running the option with Grogan just two years later. There is a year gap between Dickey and Grogan at K-State, 1971. Out of curiosity, I looked up who was K-State’s starting quarterback in 1971. It was Dennis Morrison, who was drafted in the 14th round by the San Francisco 49ers and played one season in the NFL. K-State had three starting quarterbacks in a row that were NFL players. I believe this is the only time in school history that this happened.
“If you look at my stats at K-State, I wasn’t too great. We weren’t the best. My coach got fired. And so after that I go to Foxborough and play and my stats aren’t very good and the team wasn’t consistently good and several coaches got fired. There were two quarterbacks after me in New England, (Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady) who were the real deal and brought Boston the trophies that eluded me.”…Steve Grogan, Manhattan Mercury, February 23, 2019
JM: In most of his interviews Grogan is very humble. He did help lead the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl in 1985, but you’ll never hear him toot his own horn about it. He’s much more likely to give credit to his teammates and say he was just along for the ride.
“I came out of Kansas State, which at the time was not a very good program. They have done really well in the last 20 years under Coach Snyder out there. When I was there we were one of the bottom feeders in the Big Eight Conference. I got drafted by the Patriots in the fifth round. I came back here not expecting to make the roster. They already had three veterans.”…Steve Grogan, Life of Dad, January 19, 2015
JM: Grogan was drafted in the 5th round on the NFL draft in 1975. He wasn’t a shoo-in to make the Patriots’ roster, but the dominoes fell his way…
“I was told that they were only going to keep two on the active roster that year. My chances didn’t look too good. One of the veterans retired and Jim Plunkett, who was the starter, got hurt in the final preseason game. They had to keep me as the backup. We ran a pro-style offense at Kansas State, but we certainly didn’t have the kind of talent I had with the Patriots my rookie year”…Steve Grogan, Life of Dad, January 19, 2015
JM: A retirement and an injury were the reasons Grogan made the roster, but it didn’t take long before he became the starting quarterback…
“I sat on the bench for half a season trying to improve my passing game. I was a pretty good runner. That bought me some time to learn the passing game for the first few years. Plunkett got hurt again and I became the starter halfway through the season. It was kind of learn on the fly and use my running ability to get me out of trouble.”…Steve Grogan, Life of Dad, January 19, 2015
JM: I don’t remember Grogan as a running quarterback. By the time I was watching him in the mid to late 1980s, he was strictly a pocket passer due to age and injuries.
“The first game that I played in as a rookie was in Shea Stadium in New York. I still remember to this day standing for the national anthem and glancing across the field and seeing Joe Namath standing on the sidelines. I was thinking what am I doing here? (All laugh.) I am on the same field as Joe Namath. This is unbelievable.”…Steve Grogan, Life of Dad, January 19, 2015
JM: There’s that humbleness again.
“We always spent our family vacations going back to Kansas and visiting family. To me it was better to spend three to four days with each grandparent. Our vacations were always going back to visit family”...Steve Grogan, Life of Dad, January 19, 2015
JM: I found this to be a neat tidbit. Rather than going on extravagant vacations, the Grogans came back to Kansas and spent time with family.
“He bought the store in 1994 and simply added his name to that of former owner Peter Marciano, brother of the famous boxer. The store specializes in equipment and uniforms for college, high school, and youth leagues.“…Bella English, The Boston Globe, January 12, 2008
JM: Grogan still owns and operates his sporting goods store in Mansfield, Massachusetts.
“That Super Bowl season, he’d broken a leg when tackled, and played with it held together with a couple of screws. In 1988, he suffered a ruptured disk in his neck; doctors took bone from his hip and planted it in his neck. Grogan put on a neck roll and played. There were torn ligaments and sprained tendons, five knee surgeries, a broken hand, and numerous shoulder separations.”…Bella English, The Boston Globe, January 12, 2008
JM: That’s a lot of injuries.
“Old people remember me, the kids don’t remember me. I’m very popular with 70- and 80-year-old women.”…Steve Grogan, The Boston Globe, January 12, 2008
JM: Hey, that’s something!
“Though their pay differed – Tom Brady has a six-year, $60 million contract, while Grogan never got to a million a year – the two quarterbacks have many similarities. They’re the same size – 6-foot-4 and about 220, give or take. Grogan was a fifth-round draft pick out of Kansas State; Brady was sixth round out of Michigan. Both were bench-warmers who benefited when the starting quarterback – both first picks – got injured: In Grogan’s case, it was Jim Plunkett; in Brady’s case, Drew Bledsoe. Both have been lauded for their work ethic on the field and their civility off”.…Bella English, The Boston Globe, January 12, 2008
JM: The physical comparison to Tom Brady helped me visualize how big Grogan is. The other comparisons are pretty neat as well.
“Steve Grogan, New England’s second year quarterback out of Kansas State, who replaced the traded Jim Plunkett enjoyed his finest pro game yesterday. He directed a 30‐14 upset victory over the Miami Dolphins at the Patriots’ Foxboro Stadium.
Grogan passed for three touchdowns and scored on a 15‐yard run for the Patriots go‐ahead touchdown, late in the first half. The Dolphins had won seven of their previous eight games against the Pats, were undefeated in preseason play this year and took their season opener against Buffalo last Monday night. But yesterday they were completely outclassed by the Patriots.”…Al Harvin, The New York Times, September 20, 1976
JM: It didn’t take Grogan long to start making headlines in the NFL.
“Grogan had a respectable rookie season posting 1,976 yards with 11 TDs and 18 picks.”…Joe Gill, Bleacher Report, September 6, 2009
JM: Nowadays you don’t see many starting quarterbacks that have quite a bit more interceptions than touchdown passes, but this passed for “respectable” back then.
“Many players felt the ’78 was better than the ’76 team. The ground attack sure was. Four players, including quarterback Steve Grogan, racked up at least 500 yards rushing. Grogan said “We had one of the best running games, there ever was in the NFL.” The team rushed for a NFL record 3,165 yards which still stands today.”…Joe Gill, Bleacher Report, September 6, 2009
JM: The Patriots, led by dual-threat quarterback Steve Grogan, held the NFL team rushing record for 31 years, It was broken by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in 2019.
“We had him ranked as the top quarterback prospect in the country before he started his senior season at Kansas State’,” the coach remembers. “But then ….he got a pinched nerve in his neck and he played for a poor team and the other N.F.L. teams shied away from him. Most teams thought that his neck injury would be chronic and they didn’t want to take a chance on him.”…Dave Anderson, New York Times, November 21, 1976
JM: In a New York Times article titled “The Tornado Kid,” (how original!!!!), at least one NFL coach in 1974 thought K-State had the best quarterback in the country.
“At 6 feet 4 inches and 205 pounds, Steve Grogan is bigger than most quarterbacks. Tougher, too, When the Patriots shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30‐27, early this season, he was hurrying over to see who had recovered a fumble when Ernie Holmes, the Steelers huge defensive tackle, spat, in his face.
‘I spit back,’ he says.”…Dave Anderson, New York Times, November 21, 1976
JM: It doesn’t appear that Grogan took any crap from huge Steelers defensive linemen.
“Steve Young, with three years of personal tutoring from the great one, Bill Walsh, was available from the San Francisco 49ers.
But the Pats decided Young was “a product of the 49ers system and doesn’t fit our offense.”
And so, with the release in 1989 of Tony Eason, it is down again this season to Grogan and Marc Wilson, 33, a well-documented underachiever. Wilson has a badly sprained thumb and is out indefinitely.”…Charles Bricker, The Oklahoman, August 19, 1990
JM: So let me get this straight….the Patriots could have had future Hall-Of-Famer Steve Young, but passed on him because they thought Grogan was better at the time?
“Hall of Fame guard John Hannah referred to Grogan as the toughest player he ever played with in his career.”…Ken Krippen, National Football Post, November 27, 2013
JM: How many times have you heard an offensive lineman refer to a quarterback as the toughest player they’ve ever played with?
“In 1976, he set an NFL record by rushing for 12 touchdowns. That was the most by a quarterback since Johnny Lujack set the record in 1950 and was tied by Tobin Rote in 1956. The record stood for 35 years until Cam Newton broke it in 2011 with 14 rushing touchdowns.”…Ken Krippen, National Football Post, November 27, 2013
JM: Amazingly, Grogan held this record for 35 years!
“I had been inactive for the first two playoff games against the Jets and the Raiders. I was given clearance to dress for the Miami game. I was ready to go for the Super Bowl, but Eason had been the starting quarterback for the three playoff wins and Raymond Berry had decided to go with him, which I understood. He struggled early in the Super Bowl and Raymond asked me to go in to see what I could do. I had visions of pulling us out of the fire, but we were playing against a defense that was maybe one of the best ever in the NFL. It didn’t happen.”…Steve Grogan, National Football Post, November 27, 2013
JM: Grogan was the first and only quarterback from Kansas State University to play in a Super Bowl.
“In a September 25, 2003 article, Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo penned the Grogan Toughness Meter (GTM). The GTM was a way to measure the toughness of an athlete, using Grogan as the benchmark. From that article, Cafardo mentioned, “To explain GTM a little better, here’s a partial list of Grogan’s ailments: five knee surgeries; screws in his leg after the tip of his fibula snapped; a cracked fibula that snapped when he tried to practice; two ruptured disks in his neck, which he played with for 1 1/2 seasons; a broken left hand (he simply handed off with his right hand); two separated shoulders on each side; the reattachment of a tendon to his throwing elbow; and three concussions.” …Ken Krippen, National Football Post, November 27, 2013
JM: Lynn Dickey had injuries named after him and Steve Grogan had a toughness meter named after him. Love it!
Hope this didn’t get too long for you. I had a lot more that I ended up cutting out. Maybe I’ll do a “part two” someday. Jaime Mendez is up next in my series.
Till next time…