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Bethel Park lineman Grimm ready for last hurrah at Big 33 game

| Thursday, June 12, 2014, 10:15 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Bethel Park lineman Mike Grimm watches practice Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 in Bethel Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Bethel Park's Mike Grimm is a member of the 2013 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Terrific 25.

Mike Grimm won't attend Bethel Park's graduation ceremony Saturday.

He'll hear his name called at Hersheypark Stadium instead.

The Pitt recruit considers it a gridiron graduation.

“I'd rather be sweaty and hot (on a football field) than sitting in a chair,” said Grimm, who'll start at left tackle for Pennsylvania on Saturday night in the 57th annual Big 33 Football Classic in Hershey. “That (decision) was a no-brainer.”

Kickoff is 7:06 p.m. for the all-star game, which has Maryland as the opponent for the second consecutive year. Big33.org and ESPN3 will stream video live online.

Pennsylvania's lineup has nine players from the WPIAL, including three on the offensive line. Alongside Grimm are Thomas Jefferson guard Cole Costy and Upper St. Clair guard Ben Huss.

It's not unusual for the WPIAL to send linemen to a game that counts Russ Grimm and Jimbo Covert among its alumni.

“Western Pennsylvania prides itself on running the football,” said Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta, who is a Big 33 assistant this year. “To do that, you have to have pretty good offensive linemen.”

This year, Grimm leads that group. The 6-foot-6, 328-pound senior was a four-star recruit with dozens of scholarship offers. A lineman's job is rarely glamorous. A blocker in a high-scoring all-star game comes with even less praise.

“We don't get any love,” said Grimm, who also played in the West Coast Bowl in Redondo Beach, Calif., on Jan. 26.

“But during practice, you really do notice your quarterback and running backs appreciate you. They know that they're not going to get anywhere without you.”

A dozen touchdowns could be scored Saturday, if the tempo of last year's 58-27 Pennsylvania victory is repeated. Grimm, Costy and Huss likely won't score any of them. But their effort should make a difference, said Gateway coach Tom Nola, a Big 33 assistant.

“We've got some big guys, and I'm not used to that,” said Nola, who coached Clairton to four PIAA Class A titles.

“Just like most football games, (the linemen) don't get much credit. But they're probably the reason you win or lose.”

The three WPIAL linemen have practiced together this week with Virginia Tech recruit Eric Gallo (6-3, 285) of Council Rock South and Penn State recruit Noah Beh (6-6, 265) of Scranton Prep. Costy (6-2, 270) is a Youngstown State recruit, and Huss (6-2, 280) signed with Duquesne.

“We all came together pretty well in just a couple days,” said Grimm, who's become friends with Huss, a former conference rival. “It's not that I didn't like him, but it was the USC-Bethel Park thing.”

A handful of WPIAL recruits declined Big 33 invitations for varying reasons, including Michigan-bound linebacker Chase Winovich of Thomas Jefferson, Michigan State safety-receiver Montae Nicholson and West Virginia cornerback Dravon Henry of Aliquippa.

For some, it was a matter of timing.

But Grimm, who reports to Pitt on June 22, made the all-star game a priority. His uncle, Matt Fornadel, also made the Big 33 roster in 1993.

“People have different values,” Grimm said. “It's about what people want to do with the little time they have before (college).”

Rather than crowd into an auditorium, he'll have his friends and family in the stands in Hershey.

“I'll probably have 20 or 25 people there,” Grimm said. “It's like my graduation from high school football.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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