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Penn State Football Commit Ethan Grunkemeyer Ready For Last Ride Before College Football

A helicopter descends on a baseball field in rural Ohio.

“Do you know who that is?” a 40-something man walking by with his family asked.

When he’s told that the helicopter bears James Franklin, Penn State’s head football coach, his response is, “Oh, yeah. Because of that kid.”

A group of cheerleaders from Marysville High School unloads off a school bus. “Olentangy has that one quarterback…,” one says before trailing off. Everyone kind of knows who the cheerleader is talking about, but not really.

That quarterback, the star of the night, is Ethan Grunkemeyer. He’s a four-star quarterback rapidly asserting himself as one of the best high school quarterbacks in the United States. And he’s a Penn State football commit.

While Franklin’s helicopter is circling the field of Grunkemeyer’s high school, Olentangy, Grunkemeyer himself is getting ready for the last regular-season game of his high school career. He’s taking snaps and getting rid of the ball with a release so quick that if you blinked, you’d be sure to miss it. And the ball always finds its target.

Grunkemeyer is a 6’2,” 190-pound gunslinger who can come off as a little introverted and says that if he could be any dinosaur, he’d be a pterodactyl. He’s also a sort of famous high schooler. Plenty of people in State College, Pennsylvania, know who he is. When former five-star recruit Drew Allar leaves Penn State, the four-star commit Grunkemeyer is likely the next in line to take over the role of starting quarterback.

But back home, 30 minutes away from Columbus, Ohio, Grunkemeyer is another kid. He’s certainly the most well-known person on the field just about wherever he plays. Still, he’s seemingly an afterthought to people’s attendance at his games. It appears that to some, he’s still the quarterback for the Braves, not the No. 7 quarterback in the nation.

That recognition for Grunkemeyer is fitting. He may be the best player on his team, but he chalks up the team’s jump from a 4-7 record last year to its 9-1 record this year to his teammates.

“The guys around here have helped a ton and made my job easy,” Grunkemeyer said before that game against Marysville. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing with the ranking.”

Even before he committed to the Nittany Lions, Grunkemeyer was considered one of the fastest-rising prospects in high school football. He came into his junior season unknown, but after a strong showing in the playoffs, he started to get some attention. Now, he’s one of the country’s top prospects.

The storyline is eerily similar to Allar, who was recruited by Penn State when he was a three-star, committed as a four-star recruit, and finished the cycle ranked as the top quarterback prospect in the country. It’s a path that Grunkemeyer could be on as well.

Grunkemeyer and Allar have more in common. Their high schools are noticeably close to each other, sitting just 100 minutes apart. When you drive to Olentangy from State College, you’re likely to pass exit signs for Medina along the way.

The pair also share a quarterback coach: Brad Maendler. Maendler is given credit for Allar’s transformation at the position, one that Franklin says he’s seen just once. Allar and Grunkemeyer have worked out together with Maendler as both see their performances take steps to the next level.

Those connections with Allar aren’t lost on Grunkemeyer.

“He was super helpful. He and our quarterback coach were a big piece honestly in making the decision because he’s been there, he’s going through right now,” Grunkemeyer said about Allar. “I’m really just excited to get there and get in the same quarterback room as him.”

Grunkemeyer and Allar have one other thing in common, too. Neither were recruited by Ohio State despite being Ohio natives.

Grunkemeyer’s lack of recruitment doesn’t bother him, he says. Ohio State had Dylan Raiola, the nation’s top quarterback prospect, committed early on. When Raiola left for Georgia, the Buckeyes had Air Noland waiting in the wings to emerge as the group’s quarterback of the recruiting class. The irony? Noland is ranked as the No. 6 quarterback prospect in the country, per 247Sports. Grunkemeyer is ranked No. 7. And he’s on the rise.

There are several other ironies from Grunkemeyer’s recruitment. He grew up minutes from Ohio Stadium. Ryan Day could’ve made a wrong turn and ended up watching Grunkemeyer play on a Friday night.

Grunkemeyer also grew up in an Ohio State household.

Grunkemeyer, who was raised on Ohio State football and even attended Penn State’s 2016 White Out game against Ohio State as a Buckeyes fan, says the connection doesn’t affect him. He became less of an Ohio State fan and more of a college football fan as he entered high school and started looking for places to play quarterback.

“It was easy for me with the transition to Penn State, with them being rivals because I didn’t have that connection to Ohio State as long as I did,” he said.

Now, Grunkemeyer is set in stone as the kid going to Penn State. As he walks through the hallway of his high school, a teammate passes by. “Big Penn State guy,” the teammate chirps. Grunkemeyer just smiles.

Grunkemeyer is staring down the last two months of high school. It’s a bittersweet experience, he said. He’ll leave Olentangy a semester early so that he can get started at Penn State in January. He’ll get that chance to work out with Allar and the rest of the quarterback room soon.

But for now, Grunkemeyer has a game to play. He won that game against Marysville 39-29 and now faces a playoff run. It’s his last chance to bring his high school a trophy. And Grunkemeyer wants that trophy more than much else.

Grunkemeyer doesn’t have a favorite memory from his years of playing football. Winning a championship with his high school team though, he says, just might change that. Before he can do something for his university of 45,000 students, the sort of famous kid from Ohio has one last chance to do something for his high school of 1,600.

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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