Chemistry-building starts in the offseason when players have time in abundance. Boston College wide receiver Kobay White wanted to take advantage of every moment he had. When he worked on his timing, it made sense to run routes with Anthony Brown, the Eagles’ projected starting quarterback. But when he just wanted to catch footballs, run drills, and hone skills, sometimes he needed to go to another option.
That’s when backup quarterback Dennis Grosel became his go-to. White didn’t have to worry about whether Grosel would be available.
“He had to come,” White joked. “He didn’t have a choice.”
Grosel was ready whenever White called. Even during the dog days of preseason training when walkthroughs would run late into the night. Practice would finally end, players would shower and leave to get ready for the next day, Grosel would get back to his room, and a ping from White would come as late as 9 p.m.
“I really did mean to tell him right after walkthrough,” White said, trying to muffle his laughter. “As soon as he’d get back to the room, I was like, ‘I’ve got to catch some passes. I didn’t catch enough in practice today.’ ”
But in those extra hours and through those extra reps, Grosel built a level of rapport and trust with his teammates. It now permeates the Eagles’ locker room after Grosel stepped in two weeks ago when Brown suffered a season-ending left knee injury at Louisville.
“This spring I would say is when he kind of really won us over,” White said. “Before, we knew he had ability, but we also saw he had the ability to lead, I would say, in the spring.”
The loss of Brown midway through the season threw a monkey wrench in an already challenging season for the Eagles. Now the keys to the offense will fall into the hands of a redshirt sophomore out of Cleveland’s St. Ignatius High School.
Grosel came to BC as a walk-on in 2017. With plenty of depth at the position, Grosel wasn’t even listed on the depth chart last season.
“Going from as low as I was on the chart, and as low as the situation was to this position, it’s eye-opening,” Grosel said. “It’s humbling to know I was in that position and still make that connection to be fortunate where I am.”
He didn’t see the field last season but showed traits in the spring worthy of a scholarship.
“We put him on scholarship because I thought he had tremendous intangibles,” coach Steve Addazio said. “He’s tough, he’s a leader, he earned the respect of everybody on this football team.”
“He can really throw the football and operate and execute the offense. So the kids know that, they see that, they can tell when guys are genuine and real and Dennis is a genuine guy.”
Grosel’s infectious work ethic built equity with his teammates.
“He kind of motivated a lot of the people to go hard — myself included,” said running back AJ Dillon. “There’s times where I’d kind of coast and everybody doesn’t always want to go every day, but he’d try to get the best out of everybody, and that’s something people respected. Every day, he came out there with some type of intensity to bring others up, and he’s still doing that now.”
Part of what allows Grosel to push his teammates is the fact that he doesn’t take any of his opportunities — practice or game day — for granted.
“I think the root of it is how I got here, and how I came to this position and just really going out and being thankful for where I am, and how I got here and bringing that energy every day,” Grosel said.
The way Grosel’s approach was embraced by teammates epitomized the way the Eagles locker room functions.
“With our team, you get respect by how hard you work, the effort you’re going to put in,” White said. “It doesn’t really matter if you’re a walk-on or whatever you are. If you’re going to put in the work, that’s how you get the respect of the team and I think that’s probably any program.”
Grosel was thrown into the fire against Louisville and impressed not only with his poise but also the three touchdown passes he threw. The week leading into the Louisville game, Grosel took fewer than 10 practice reps with the first team. But he didn’t let the moment overwhelm him.
“That’s difficult to do,” Addazio said. “You’re not getting all the game plan looks. That just speaks to a guy’s mental toughness . . . I think what’s hard for a guy to come in, whether he has the ability or not, is you just don’t get the reps.
“I think what matters is it tells you the grit of a guy, the competitiveness of a guy that has the desire to be great, the desire not to let his team down. I think those things all factor into why players follow guys and believe in guys.”
The circumstances are different, the stakes are higher, but Grosel’s as ready as he was when he answered White’s calls in the offseason.
“I’m a lucky guy to be in this situation and play with these guys and run out of that tunnel every Saturday,’’ Grosel said. “There’s no better feeling. Reminding myself of that is the biggest thing [I do]. It brings my energy level up and I try to be as contagious as possible.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.