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HomeSportsUT
Published: Wednesday, 6/8/2005

Selling himself: Gradkowski makes calls for Rockets

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Hello, this is quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, and I've got a great deal for you on season tickets to see the Rockets play football. Hello, this is quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, and I've got a great deal for you on season tickets to see the Rockets play football.
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After two years as the starting quarterback at the University of Toledo, Bruce Gradkowski is comfortable making calls. He also has shown a knack for selling the opposing defense on a fake.

But the Rockets senior has learned over the past month that those calls and sales are not quite as easy away from the football field. Gradkowski has been doing a stint in the marketing office in the UT athletic department, selling - what else - season tickets for the Rockets' 2005 games at the Glass Bowl.

"There's a lot more involved in this than I thought there was," said Gradkowski, a marketing major who is completing a required internship. "Even when you're the team's quarterback, you can't just throw your name out there and expect to make the sale. You've got to work at it, give them some information, and then follow up."

Gradkowski, who has led the Rockets to a 17-8 record over the past two seasons, has been calling on primarily UT's new employees, and faculty and staff members who attended at least one game last fall but did not buy season-ticket packages.

"We have a number of students work in our office, and when Bruce approached us about getting some sales experience, it just made total sense," said Sean Briner, UT's assistant athletic director for sales and marketing.

"We've had a wide range of reactions when Bruce has contacted people. Some don't know much about football and don't recognize the name, while others are very aware of who he is and are a little bit surprised that he is also involved in season-ticket sales."

Season tickets for Toledo's 2005 schedule, which covers the five home games against Western Illinois, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo and Northern Illinois, cost $125 for the reserved section in the middle of the field, and the UT faculty and staff can purchase up to two sets at half price.

"Most of the people I called were nice to talk with, but making the actual sales was tougher than I expected," Gradkowski said. "Some said they appreciated the offer but 'no thanks,' and some said they really enjoyed watching me play and would think about it."

Gradkowski said most of the people he contacted thought that having the quarterback calling potential customers was a novel concept. It's like the guy who puts the fenders on at the Jeep plant turning around and selling the cars off the lot - there's a lot of credibility when he talks about the product.

"I know a little something about what I'm selling here," said Gradkowski, who threw for a school-record 3,475 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2004 when he was second in the nation with a 70.8 pass completion percentage. He had a UT record 29 touchdown passes in 2003 with just seven interceptions, and was second in the country in accuracy with a 71.2 percent completion rate.

"I'm selling something I really believe in," Gradkowski said, "and I can tell them with full confidence that this is something they should do, because I expect us to have an exciting and great year. I guess that since I play football, I have a little more leverage when I am talking about it and selling the program to someone."

Gradkowski, who broke a bone in his hand while leading the Rockets to a win in the Mid-American Conference championship over Miami last December, missed spring ball while rehabbing the injury after a second round of surgery. All of this football talk has him energized.

"This experience has helped get me fired up and anxious for next season to get here," said Gradkowski, who set another UT record in 2003 with six touchdown passes against Buffalo, a game in which he completed a MAC record 23-of-25 passes - 92 percent.

"Talking with a lot of people about the upcoming season, and then trying to sell season tickets has also helped me get a different perspective on how the business side of this works," Gradkowski said. "I'd still rather play football, but now I understand more about what it takes to put on the event, and fill the stands."

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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