BOISE, Idaho — The Fruitland Grizzlies celebrated homecoming last Friday night with a 55-6 win over the Parma Panthers.
For the squad's head football coach, Jordan Gross, the entire 2022 high school football season has served as a sort of homecoming.
Gross graduated from Fruitland High School in 1999 and went on to be a first round NFL Draft pick. Gross was also a three-time NFL Pro Bowler for the Carolina Panthers.
Now, he has stepped up to be the Grizzlies head coach, which is Gross' way of giving back to the community he grew up in.
"I got a wealth of knowledge in football from career that lasted well into adulthood," Gross said. "So, it just seemed like an excellent way for me to be able to support the local community, help these young men and really, it keeps me close to a game that I love and it means so much to me."
After an 11-year NFL career, the former Panther is back in the Gem State, taking the reigns of the program that sparked his love of football.
"I was definitely nervous, you know, this year came on me quick with the head coaching role," Gross said. "It was a little bit surreal, being the head coach of your high school and you think, 'well, I hope this goes well.'"
Gross said he was able to draw from his past, bringing back traditions from his playing days with the Grizzlies. Despite being a football expert, there was a little bit of a learning curve for Gross returning to the high school level.
"I just dove into this role like I have all my football roles, where I try to learn from people. High school coaches have a wealth of knowledge that I don't have," Gross said. "Figuring out what the high school athlete needs, what the high school offense and defense can look like and how I can best give anything I can out of my experiences to these kids is what it's all about."
Jordan Gross in Carolina
For the players in a town of just over 5,000 people, the opportunity to be coached up by a literal pro is extraordinary.
"You already know he was great experience, so you know you're gonna get taught up well," senior Marcus Jones said. "You know, everything he's saying is obviously gonna work good and if you follow it, you're gonna do great."
"He has a ton of experience. He's a guy from the culture," senior Theo Jackson said. "Having him here, it's great, 'cause it shows what Fruitland's all about."
While not every player is bound to make a career out of the game of football, coach Gross is using the game to teach lessons that will prepare the Grizzlies for success in life.
"What I can tell you is that success comes in all sorts of forms and the formula is the same," Gross said. "So, I'm just preaching to these kids about doing things the right way, always giving everything your best, working hard at everything you do, be respectful on and off the field and that'll take you a long way."
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