TAMPA — That Deuce Gruden, just 23 years old, could follow in father Jon's footsteps with a job in the NFL isn't that surprising, coming from a family of coaches and inheriting his father's competitive nature and love of football.
That he could be 5 feet 5, 180 pounds and get a job as a strength coach in the NFL is a little more incredible, but the Carrollwood Day School graduate has put in enough time in weight rooms to command authority, even in a room of NFL players.
"I like to get lifts in with some of the guys, and they see what I can do, so there's a respect there," said Deuce, home to see family in Tampa for a break before the season. "It was kind of intimidating at first. I'm not going to lie."
Courtesy of Deuce Gruden
Jon David Gruden II reports next week as an assistant strength coach on his uncle Jay's staff with the Redskins, having joined the team last year as a strength and conditioning intern and making a strong impression.
One look at Deuce and his physique is impressive. He went a step farther last month, winning a gold medal in the 183-pound weight class at the International Powerlifting Federation's World Classic in Minsk, Belarus.
"I've been working a long time, lifting a lot of weights since, shoot, pretty much eighth grade," he said. "To see it all come together, to walk away with a title, it's crazy."
His numbers from Minsk are staggering: he squatted 600 pounds, more than triple his weight; he bench-pressed 418 pounds, more than double his weight; and dead-lifted 640 pounds. What's more, he is disappointed he didn't perform better: "I'm not really satisfied. I got the title, but I had more juice in me," he said. "But I can't complain. If there's one thing I learned in football, a win's a win."
What made it more special was having his family on hand to cheer him on, making the same long trip from Tampa to Frankfurt, Germany, then to Minsk, about 450 miles west of Moscow.
"To have them in my corner was definitely a plus," he said. "It was an interesting journey for all of us. It was intense over there, but it was cool to experience it with the family."
His father, who coached the Bucs from 2002-08, jokes that he was hoping Tampa would host the meet, and while he travels plenty for Monday Night Football and once went to Tokyo for a Bucs preseason game, this was an ambitious undertaking for the family.
"We're novice travelers," Jon said. "We don't leave the state of Florida often, and when we do, we go to Tennessee. We were nervous, but really took it as a great opportunity to come closer together as a family and support our son, who's sacrificed a great deal to get to where he is. We all went, and we're all glad we did."
It's a long way from Carrollwood Day School, which was playing eight-man football when Deuce arrived. He played well enough as the program grew to earn a scholarship to Lafayette, where he was a running back and earned his degree in biology, graduating last year.
Octavio Jones | Times (2011)
Even before Deuce's dedication in the weight room, his father remembers his son taking care of his body, suggesting he may have never eaten a French fry, or ordered a Coke, joking that his percent body fat is "negative."
"I'm not the type of guy that's going to throw down McDonald's and rinse that down with a Mountain Dew," said Deuce, who eats a steady diet of grilled fish, chicken and steak. "I watch what I eat, big-time. I eat a lot, but I eat a lot of the right stuff. It's an easy choice."
His grandfather Jim spent 20 years as a coach and scout in college and the NFL, and Jon was the youngest head coach ever to win at Super Bowl — only 39 — when the Bucs won in 2003. But Deuce is on a faster track — Jon worked at four colleges before getting his first NFL job at age 26; uncle Jay was 35 when he joined Jon's Bucs staff in 2002.
The Gruden name carries high expectations, but Deuce is out to make a name for himself, and his off-field accomplishments make him hard to overlook.
"He's not little. He's just short. He's a powerful guy," his father said. "To have that (lifting championship) on his resume helps him from a credibility standpoint when he's teaching players how to power-clean or bench or squat properly. He has a rare combination of lifting experience and technical experience, and what he's gaining from the Redskins coaching staff is invaluable."
For the second year in a row, Deuce will get a homecoming next month when the Redskins finish the preseason with a game against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium. At 23, his coaching career is only beginning, and he appreciates the opportunities his family has given him, hopeful he has a long run ahead of him.
"I wouldn't be where I am if it wasn't for what my dad and uncle have done," he said. "So to be doing this at 23, I'm incredibly blessed and happy with where I am."
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.