When you talk to senior LB Mike Groome, you know you're going to get straightforward answers.
Groome's straightforward talking style extends to the football field, where the Byram, NJ native jumped into a defensive starting role with both feet to have one of the best defensive statistical seasons in recent memory: 131 tackles, including 73 solo tackles and seven tackles for loss.
The senior linebacker who wasn't even anointed the starting linebacker in preseason camp last year ended up being a big reason for Lehigh's turnaround in 2010. And in 2011, as defensive captain, he hopes to maintain the high bar he and his teammates set with last year's spectacular season. (more)
"My expectations for myself is to have another productive year and lead our team to another Patriot League Championship," he told me. "Personally I'm focusing on eliminating mental errors and being able to help the underclassmen develop mentally."
"For lack of a better word, Mike Groome described the offseason for the Lehigh football program as being really 'weird.', Groome told Keith Groller of the Morning Call.
"In my time here we had always been coming off 5-6 and 4-7 seasons," he said. "So, to look back and think that we were 10-3 and league champions last year, it just felt really weird. Different. It's a nice feeling, but we know it means nothing now."
Groome said the hunger is still there for the program because while they won 10 games, they were outclassed three times by scholarship-giving Colonial Athletic Association schools in Villanova, New Hampshire and Delaware.
Lehigh was outscored 108-30 in those games.
"Those games showed there's still room for improvement because we really struggled," he added. "You always have a place on your shelf for next season when you lose to someone. We don't play Villanova or Delaware this season, but we play New Hampshire and that's a big game for us."
Groome, an All-American last season, has been piling up preseason awards, making his way on a multitude of all-Star teams, including appearances on CFPA's watch list, the Sports Network second team All-American list, Phil Steele Magazine's All-Patriot League first team, and the College Sporting News' second team.
As preseason Patriot League player of the year, he delivered a short speech in front of the assembled media. "It’s a great honor," said Mike. “I’m very happy to have that bestowed upon me, but it’s more of a reflection upon what I did last year. I haven’t done anything yet this year, but I’d rather have that recognition at the end of the year.”
"Going into this season, I think you take everything from last season through the year and you dwell on it a little bit here and there, but not too much," Groome added to Michael LoRe of the Express-Times.
There's something else Mike did this summer, aside from his summer job, of course. In a report from Lehigh Athletics, it was reported that Groome spent the month of June donating stem cells in hopes of saving a life.
“I’ve actually been contacted every year I’ve been a part of the program,” Groome explains. “I’ve always gone through the blood work, but this year I was called to actually go into New York and get more extensive tests. I had to make sure the timeframe was right, and once I reached the end of the school year I decided to do it over the summer.”
After further testing, Groome was cleared to proceed with the stem cell donation process, which took place at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center in June. His decision to go forward with the process came with wide levels of support from the Lehigh football program.
“I was proud of Mike when he said he had been chosen and was going to be a donor,” explained Coen. “Here you have an All-America caliber athlete who was very excited to help save someone's life which he had no connection with at all. This speaks volumes for how Mike was raised and what type of person he is. Mike has developed into a very fine player on the field and it is great to see that he also understands the bigger role he can play in the game of life.”
The entire article is a must-read, detailing the work involved and the entire process he went through. It says volumes about the type of guy he is - it takes a tough guy to go through that process, no matter what he says.
Like LB Al Pierce before him, Mike seems like the quintessential quiet leader, with the toughness lurking behind the somewhat soft-spoken words.
"My leadership style I believe is that of leading by example," he told me. "I'm not the most vocal leader but when I'm on the field I definitely express myself."
So what does Mike do to get himself ready for games?
"I do have some pregame rituals, such as listening to the same music every game," he told me. "I know exactly what song I will be hearing, for example, when I'm stepping off the bus. I like to mentally pump myself up."
Seeing him at Patriot League media day, it was pretty clear that he didn't need a lot of pumping up. If a game of football broke out on the greens at the Green Pond Country Club, I'm almost sure he'd have been in the middle of it.