As Kain Grose made his way out of Darrell Beane Stadium on the campus of Earlham College, he was approached by a male spectator.
“Are you No. 51?” the male spectator asked.
“Yes sir,” Grose replied, acknowledging that he has given up the well-known No. 56 jersey he wore to help Hagerstown High School win a pair of Tri-Eastern Conference titles.
“I like the way you play,” the man said. “I’m Jake Stilwell’s father.”
It was quite a compliment for a freshman, and even moreso considering from whom it was came.
Jake Stilwell is a sophomore defensive lineman at Hanover College. His parents are listed as Michael and Carrie Stilwell on Hanover’s football website.
About an hour before the interaction, the younger Stilwell had set a school record with his 15th sack of the season as the Panthers defeated Earlham 28-14 in a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference contest.
Grose is a freshman on the Panthers’ roster, and was playing football in Wayne County for the first time since helping Hagerstown complete an undefeated 2012 regular season.
“It was nice having the Hagerstown community out here supporting me. It was kind of nice looking back and seeing the purple out there. It was kind of weird coming rolling into Richmond. It’s still home, but I’ve been at Hanover now.”
Grose helped the Tigers win TEC football titles in 2010 and 2012, as well as a sectional in 2010.
He was also a strong contributor to the basketball team that his junior year had the first winning season in 10 years and his senior year won its first TEC title in 16 years. He also threw discus and shot put for the track and field team.
In football, Grose made 154 tackles, 87 of them solo, with three interceptions and three forced fumbles as a senior linebacker, but he’s switched positions at the next level.
“Kain’s somebody that we knew coming in was going to be a really good football player for us, but we didn’t know exactly at what position,” Hanover coach Steve Baudendistel said.
“I think he figured out pretty quickly when the season started that linebacker probably wasn’t going to work out for him, and he kind of came up to us and thought he may be a little bit better at defensive line. That’s the best way to explain what type of person he is, he’s willing to play any position so he can to help the team. He stepped into pretty much a new position for him. He’s played a little bit more every single game, rotating in a little bit more. He’s a very, very good football player and he’s only a freshman.”
But he doesn’t act like one.
The Tiger tradition includes 19 TEC titles in football and 10 sectionals.
Hagerstown is just one of two teams in the eight-team TEC to win a sectional title in football. The other, Tri, has just one.
That comes with hard work, and accountability, and Grose impressed Baudendistel by showing leadership skills early.
“He’s a great worker. You can tell he’s a competitor,” Baudendistel said. “We could tell early in camp. You don’t often get freshmen calling people out in sprints because they’re not trying hard enough. Kain was calling people out because they weren’t sprinting hard enough. That was something that really stood out to us and showed us what type of person he is and what type of leader he can be for us.”
Grose smiled as he was asked about the moment. Though at the time, Grose admits, the teammate might not have appreciated the gesture, with time, the two understood.
“We had to start it (the sprints) over once and I saw he was kind of jogging,” Grose said. ” … I think he respected me for it. It was one of my first few days down at the D-line.”
Grose has seen time in five games this year. He has eight total tackles, four solo, including one against Earlham.
This weekend, Grose will be at home for the Hall of Fame game against HCAC opponent Manchester University. He will face one of his former teammates, Steven Glover, who made 74 tackles, recovered three fumbles and returned one for a touchdown as a Hagerstown linebacker. Glover also rushed for eight touchdowns and had one kick return TD during the 2012 season.
Glover is a freshman for the Spartans (2-6, 2-4) and has three carries for 10 yards in one game.
They shared a final high school football game as both were named to the East team on the 13th annual Indiana Football Hall of Fame East-West All-Star Classic this past summer.
“He was a late recruit, he was looking at a few other places,” Baudendistel said of Grose. ” … He’s one of those guys that kind of slipped through and ended up on our lap and we’re real lucky.”