Gruber accepts Medal of Honor Bowl invitation

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Michael Gruber, a three-time all-South Atlantic Conference selection and Brevard’s all-time leading tackler with 392 career stops, has accepted an invitation to play in the Medal of Honor Bowl to showcase his skills for professional scouts.

Gruber will wear No. 32 for the American Team, which is led by former South Carolina State head coach Willie Jeffries. He ended his season by earning first team all-conference accolades for the second time in his career and was the SAC’s leading tackler from his inside linebacker position.

Gruber and his American Team counterparts will face a National Team squad led by former Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey. Both teams are primarily comprised of draft-eligible players from Division I institutions, including 20 ACC and 18 SEC players. The game will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network and will kick off from The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 10.

“It’s definitely an honor and a huge privilege to get selected for this bowl game,” said Gruber. “It’s one of the top bowl games for college football players and I’m very excited to play in it.”

Gruber’s 113 tackles this season, an average of 10.3 stops per game, ranked 33rd nationally. He recorded at least 10 tackles on six different occasions and at least 15 tackles three times. He tied a career high with 19 stops and picked off a pass against then-No. 21 Carson-Newman on September 20, a game in which he became Brevard’s all-time tackles leader. He also forced one fumble and recovered another this season. His 392 career stops rank second among all active Division II players and 10th among active players across all NCAA divisions.

In addition to his first team all-conference status, Gruber was named as a candidate for the Harlon Hill Trophy, given to the nation’s most outstanding Division II player, and was a finalist for the Cliff Harris Award that is presented to the country’s top small college defensive player.

Joining Gruber on the American Team will be head coach Paul Hamilton, who last month accepted an invitation to serve as the team’s running backs coach after the Tornados had the nation’s sixth-most prolific rushing offense at 321.6 yards per game and saw fullback Jordan Ollis break the single-season school record for rushing yards.

“Michael continues to bring great exposure and credibility to Brevard College and our football program,” said Hamilton. “This is a very special opportunity for him to play with and against some of the most elite players at the highest level of college football.”

Also roaming the sidelines for the American Team will be Hamilton’s father Rusty, who will be in charge of the offensive line. Former Air Force head coach Fisher DeBerry, who hired Hamilton to two separate assistant coaching stints in Colorado Springs spanning eight seasons, will lead the team’s defensive line. The staff will also include former Furman and Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson and former VMI coach Cal McCombs, both of whom have worked alongside Hamilton in previous coaching stops.

Even with national television cameras and dozens of NFL scouts present in Charleston this week, Gruber does not expect nervousness to affect his play. “This is a huge opportunity. I’m very excited to have the privilege to be on national TV and play with some of the top college players. There will be lots of eyes on me, but at the end of the day, it’s still a football game. When we kick off it will be like any other Saturday for me.”

Gruber will be participating in his second postseason all-star game after suiting up in the FCS National Bowl in Miami, Florida on December 7. Gruber, along with teammates Kelvin Jeter and Jordan Ollis, practiced and competed in front of scouts from 11 NFL teams, five Canadian Football League franchises, and 11 teams from various arena leagues.

Click here for the full roster announcement from the Medal of Honor Bowl.

Featured image courtesy of Neil Hayes. Click here to view more photos by Neil.

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