By Greg Bates
Special to the Community Spirit
Prior to early May, Garrett Groshek had never been to Las Vegas.
When Groshek finally ended up taking his first trip to the Gambling Capital of the World, it wasn’t for a vacation like most travelers. It was strictly a business trip and a new beginning.
Groshek is living out his childhood dream of playing in the NFL as the Las Vegas Raiders picked up the former Amherst and University of Wisconsin-Madison football player as an undrafted free agent.
“I’m excited to be in a new city,” Groshek told the Community Spirit. “It doesn’t get more exciting than Vegas, I think. Just being able to be a part of the Raiders and that city and all the excitement they have for sports is something that you can’t wait to be a part of.”
Groshek didn’t know which team he would land with on the third and final day of the 2021 NFL Draft on May 1. He knew there was a high possibility that he wouldn’t get drafted, so he could end up signing with any team.
“Once the sixth round finishes, the NFL allows teams to start negotiating with guys that are undrafted,” Groshek said. “That’s really when everything started, and it really was just calls from my agent and the Raiders. He’d be on the phone with them, then get off the phone with them and talk to me, and back and forth until we were able to get a deal.”
Groshek, who graduated from Amherst in 2016, verbally agreed to terms with the Raiders even before the draft had ended. He was one of 10 undrafted free agents signed by Las Vegas.
“Vegas was our top team going into the draft, and they had shown the most interest, so that was kind of the situation that we liked the best,” Groshek said. “It was all about timing and trying to get it done.”
Groshek called the Raiders the ideal landing spot for him because it gives him the best opportunity to make an NFL roster.
“That’s a big reason why we wanted to go with Vegas, why that was our #1 team,” Groshek said. “The situation just seemed like the best fit for myself and the reason for that is I think that that’s the best chance to succeed, not only as an individual, but as a team, too. I’m excited to keep getting better and keep taking those next steps as an organization.”
Groshek, who will be relied on as a running back and special teams guru, participated in the Raiders’ first rookie minicamp the weekend of May 8 at the team’s facility in Henderson, Nev.
In his first few weeks as a Raider, Groshek brought his hard-nosed work ethic to the field.
“Just being in meetings, a big thing that [special teams] coach [Rich] Bisaccia talks about is he calls special teams ‘wefense.’ I feel like a lot of the values that they have in Vegas are similar to the values that I have and the values that I bring to a team,” Groshek said. “Just playing for the guy next to you, having something as little as a great attitude every day, wanting to get better, pushing myself and my teammates that are around me. Just going to bring everything that I have. We’ll find out exactly what I’m bringing once we get rolling. Just try to do whatever they ask; do whatever I can to help the team win.”
Groshek is focused on making his mark as a special teams player in all four phases—just as he did at Wisconsin. He knows that’s his best shot to earn playing time and potentially make the Raiders’ 53-man roster or 12-man practice squad. The Raiders have an established nucleus of running backs that include Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, Jalen Richard, and Theo Riddick.
“We have Josh Jacobs, who is one of the best in the league, so for me it will be just trying to get my foot in the door,” Groshek said. “Really focus on special teams and then be ready in case anything were to happen that I’d need to take some snaps at running back.”
Groshek, who originally walked on to Wisconsin as a quarterback, had a successful career in the backfield for the Badgers. He played in 47 games with two starts; he finished with 235 carries for 1,116 yards to go along with 79 receptions for 611 yards. The two-time team captain finished with eight career touchdowns.
Groshek has a familiar face in the Raiders’ locker room in fullback Alec Ingold. The two were teammates at Wisconsin from 2016-2018. Ingold, who played high school football at Bay Port, is entering his third season with the Raiders after being an undrafted free agent in 2019.
Groshek and Ingold are good friends and were texting after the draft about being able to play together again, this time at the highest level.
“Alec, obviously, had or came up with his own blueprint about how to be successful in the NFL,” Groshek said. “It’s something that now I can just ask questions off of him and kind of ask him what his experiences were like—what worked, what didn’t work—and hopefully have an even more efficient transition from college to the NFL.”
Groshek also has another NFL resource in his former high school and college teammate, Tyler Biadasz. The pair were instrumental in Amherst winning the WIAA Division 5 state championship in 2015 when they were seniors. Biadasz, who is a center, is in his second season with the Dallas Cowboys.
“I think he was just really happy I ended up on a team and on a team I wanted to be on,” Groshek said.
After competing in rookie minicamp the first weekend in May, Groshek was driving back to Las Vegas on May 15 to get set up on a strength and conditioning program through the Raiders. The four- to-five week program is optional for veterans, but Ingold took part in it. Following organized team activities (OTAs), the Raiders players will have a one-month break before training camp gets underway at the end of July.
During his time working in the strength and conditioning program and camps, Groshek is striving to show the Las Vegas coaches that he deserves a roster spot.
“I just need to get better every day—be the best version of me,” Groshek said. “Be able to play special teams, you’ve got to know the offense, you’ve got to do everything. It’s time to be a professional now, so I’ve just got to bring my best every day.”
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