By Katherine Smith
Bright House Sports Network
June 17, 2012
TAMPA — Plant High football coach Robert Weiner loves to use 7-on-7 tournaments to instill a desire to win games in his players.
So far this summer, the Panthers have mastered that lesson. Plant won the USF Sling and Shoot I, its second 7-on-7 victory in three appearances. The Panthers defeated Dunbar, 29-12, for the title.
Plant won the UCF 7-on-7 tournament earlier this month, defeating Armwood in the finals. It was nearly another Plant-Armwood final at USF, but the Hawks lost in the semifinals.
Another big benefit of these tournaments for Plant is the amount of reps their quarterbacks get. There is a big battle for the starting spot, so 7-on-7 formats provide plenty of playing time and a chance for the coaching staff to evaluate the players . At the UCF tournament, senior Kyle Groh quarterbacked the Panthers for the one-day event.
With USF’s two-day format, all four quarterbacks – Groh, Aaron Banks, Colby Brown and Kyle Ploucher – got quality work in this weekend, with Banks leading the team in the semifinal and championship games.
Weiner said all four quarterbacks played great. He also singled out Dereck Mann, Mazzi Wilkins, Andrew Beck, Wesley Bullock and Tristan Cooper.
USF will host another Sling and Shoot July 21-22. It’s the largest of the 7-on-7 tournaments with several local teams scheduled to compete. Pasco is the defending champions.
By: Katherine Smith
December 2, 2012
Conrad’s journey back from near death has been about perseverance, resiliency, not giving up, but mostly about love. For as long as Kyle can remember, his dad, Conrad, has thrown the football with him. On July 31, that father-son bonding nearly ended. As she had done so many times before, Catherine drove to Tampa International Airport to pick up her husband, a US Airways pilot. While she waited in the car, Conrad texted his wife that he didn’t feel well.
When he arrived at curbside, he was pale and sweaty. Catherine rushed to his side. She grabbed his bag to put in the car when suddenly Conrad fell to the ground, his head striking the asphalt with a sickening thud. “It’s a sound I will never forget,” Catherine said. Catherine, a nurse who has tended to babies since 1979, sprang into action and immediately began CPR. There was no pulse. Conrad was not breathing. As she began compressions, Catherine heard a crack — yet another sound she won’t be able to forget. She broke three of Conrad’s ribs while trying to jump-start his heart, but it worked. Just before paramedics arrived, Conrad began breathing again and was actually sitting up before he was loaded into an ambulance. At St. Joseph’s Hospital, doctors assessed him and the news wasn’t good. Conrad had a pulmonary embolism and a heart attack; which came first is uncertain. And for added measure, he had bleeding on the brain from the fall, which would prevent doctors from treating the heart attack.
Nearly 300 miles away, Kyle couldn’t sleep. He stirred in his bunk at Muscular Dystrophy Camp in Tallahassee, a Plant summer tradition where players serve as counselors. He had an overwhelming feeling something was wrong. When coach Robert Weiner walked into the cabin and asked him to step outside, his fears were confirmed. “It was hard,” Weiner said. “I was very direct with him. I told him his father had taken a fall and there was potentially a heart attack and it didn’t look good.” The two began the five-hour drive back to Tampa. They talked about football and music. The last two songs Kyle heard as they approached St. Joseph’s Hospital were “Lady” by Styx, his mom and dad’s song, and Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be in My Heart,” Kyle and his mom’s song.
Doctors told Catherine to gather the family, and Kyle knew what that meant. “The first thing that went through my mind was who is going to throw the ball with me,” he said. “What was going to happen the first time I throw the ball and he’s not there. And that’s when I finally started crying.” Catherine has delivered similar news to many parents throughout her 32-year career as nurse, but she wasn’t ready to accept it when it came to her own husband.
Conrad and Catherine met at a South Tampa McDonald’s on Dale Mabry Highway. Conrad was 19 and stationed at MacDill Air Force Base. Catherine was 15 and worked the counter. Conrad, in his red and white car that earned him the nickname “Captain America,” just meshed with Catherine, a feisty Italian. They’ve been married 30 years. “The biggest hero in all of this is my wife,” Conrad said. “She saved my life.”
The Grohs believe things happen for a reason. There’s a reason Catherine — and not a friend — picked up Conrad from the airport that day. There’s a reason Conrad didn’t have a layover in Charlotte, N.C., which would have left him alone in a hotel room. And there was a reason Conrad survived. He became “that guy” at St. Joseph’s, the medical miracle doctors stopped by to marvel at during his 10-day day. The family believes prayers and love brought Conrad back. The ultimate show of support is evident on the Plant players’ helmets in the form of a Captain America-inspired red and blue sticker with the initials “CG” in the middle. “There’s a lot of power in that sticker,” Conrad said. “If those guys are going to go out there and get pounded, then I’m going to do what I need to do to get better.”
The long road to recovery has hit some bumps. There was a minor setback when Conrad had to get a pacemaker, something he’s still adjusting to, as well as his new unemployed life. After 23,000 hours in the sky, Conrad’s days as a pilot are over. His next venture has “yet to be determined,” he said. What he does know is where he’ll be tonight — sitting in the stands to cheer for Plant in the Class 8A-Region 2 final at East Lake, with the hopes of seeing his son provide another magical moment.
“That touchdown was Thanksgiving, it was Christmas, it was the best birthday ever,” Conrad said. “I will always remember that feeling and I’m so grateful I was able to see it.”