DETROIT - The University of Toledo football coaching staff encouraged freshman quarterback recruit Bruce Gradkowski not to participate in a high school all-star game last month, for fear he might get injured.
“We just wanted him to use good judgment,” UT coach Tom Amstutz said yesterday.
Although snubbed by the more prestigious Big 33 Classic, Gradkowski already had committed to play in the inaugural Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association East-West All-Star game June 30. And he opted to play, against UT's wishes.
Gradkowski, the only healthy quarterback on the West team's roster, was injured on the game's first play.
He was sacked on a rollout pass and landed on his right throwing shoulder. Gradkowski played the rest of the first half before the pain became too severe. Tests later revealed a separated shoulder.
That injury could force Gradkowski to miss his rookie season with the Rockets, who have turned to a new wide-open, spread offense.
“We're going to have our trainers and doctors look at Bruce (when the freshmen report for preseason camp Aug. 4) and see what the status of his shoulder is,” Amstutz said. “Right now, it's definitely unknown as to whether he can play this year or not.
“I'm concerned. He could be out (for the season). It's a possibility.”
Amstutz, who is attending the two-day Mid-American Conference football meetings at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center, said he had expected Gradkowski to battle junior college transfer Brian Jones and redshirt sophomore Keon Frazier for the No. 2 quarterback job behind senior starter Tavares Bolden.
“(Bruce) really has a strong arm,” Amstutz said.
Gradkowski (6-2, 190) was the leading passer in Pennsylvania last year, throwing for 2,978 yards for Seton-La Salle High School. He completed 188 of 327 passes for 30 touchdowns as a senior and was named to the Associated Press all-state first team among small schools.
Gradkowski also passed for more yards in one season than any quarterback in the 87-year history of the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League, surpassing such greats as Johnny Lujack, George Blanda, Joe Namath, Terry Hanratty, Joe Montana and Dan Marino.
Amstutz said he had not heard from Gradkowski since the quarterback was injured. He said Gradkowski had talked to UT offensive coordinator Rob Spence “a few times.”
Gradkowski could not be reached for comment.
“We'll do whatever is best for (Bruce's) shoulder (once he gets to camp) and try to get him ready to get back on the field,” Amstutz said. “Whenever that might be, we just don't know right now.”
Travis Atwell and Andre Thomas, former coach Gary Pinkel's two quarterback recruits from the class of 2000, transferred at the end of spring semester. They lacked the arm strength to run Spence's pass-happy offense.