Without Andrew Gruesen, Notre Dame’s football team might not have been off to its red-hot 5-0 start and in the hunt for a Fox River Classic Conference title.
Not once, but twice, the senior kicker has used his legs to win games for the Tritons.
First, a 42-yarder in overtime to top Ashwaubenon in Week 2, 17-14.
Then, a game-winning field goal 37 yards out at Pulaski in Week 4.
But it’s more than points on the board that Gruesen is putting together when he steps onto the football field this season.
He’s also raising money, with every kick, for research on childhood cancer through an online Kick-It Campaign. And for those who know him, that initiative isn’t the least bit surprising.
“Kind of two-fold: One was well of course Gruesen’s doing that because that’s the kind of guy he is. And two, what an awesome cause," Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rader said of his reaction when Gruesen told him about the fundraiser. "And then my third thought was, he totally underestimated how many points he was going to get for the season.”
Gruesen found out about the nationwide Kick-It Campaign while participating in a Kohl’s Kicking Camp this offseason. This year is Gruesen’s first year as a place-kicker for Notre Dame, and while he hasn’t been personally affected by cancer, he wanted to use his platform as a football player to do something more than just, well, play football.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be raising $100 or $1,000, so really anything was going to be great. And I’ve been really happy with what we’ve done so far, so hopefully we can reach that goal by the end of the season," he said. “It’s kind of a small thought I keep in the back of my head and usually after a make, I’ll look to my holder, Jack Allen, and say, ‘That’s another kick for cancer,’ and we’ll just kind of share smiles. So it’s a really cool feeling just to know you’ve done some good and you’ve gotten to enjoy the game of football that you love anyways, so it’s a really good experience.”
And at the halfway point of the Wisconsin high school football season, Gruesen’s $5,000 goal is nearly halfway there, with about $2,300 raised so far. Meanwhile, on the football field, the Tritons have secured a playoff spot and are in the thick of the Fox River Classic conference title race.
While Gruesen’s leg has helped Notre Dame get to this position, his leadership has been just as key, like his reaction after the Ashwaubenon overtime winner.
“He was the first team as the team got together after the game, to talk about who it wasn’t just him making a field goal," Rader recalled. "It was the result of the entire team putting themselves in a position to win the game. And that they can cheer for him, but it’s all about the brotherhood that they share.”
“We always say, just do your job, and if everybody can do their job, we’ll be fine," Gruesen said. "So I’ve been lucky enough to do my job and my whole team has done their job so far, so we’re just hoping to continue that throughout the season and hopefully come home with a conference championship.”
If you’re interested in donating to Gruesen’s campaign, visit his Kick-It webpage for more information. Notre Dame hosts Bay Port in a Fox River Classic showdown Friday night, and the game will be featured as NBC26's Game of the Week with Chris Barriere. Coverage begins on NBC26 beginning at 5 p.m. Friday.