Ask Berend Grube what he likes about living in the United States and the native of Germany will tell you just about everything.
"I love it here," said Grube, a senior tight end on the Thiel College football team. "When I go home to Germany, I really start missing the United States after a while and I can't wait until I get back."
What Grube likes most about the American way of life, though, is football. It is why he came to this country and fell in love with the U.S.
Grube started playing "American football" on a club team in Germany when he was 16 years old, one of the youngest players on teams with rosters filled with 20-somethings and 30-somethings.
"I played soccer like everyone else in Germany but I got tired of it," Grube said. "I would watch American football games on television and fell in love with the sport. I liked all the action, all the excitement. I thought it would be a fun sport to play."
Grube became so infatuated with the game that he decided to come to America and try his hand at it.
A business associate of Grube's father knew an American family willing to host him as a foreign exchange student at Peters Township High School.
Unlike most teenagers, Grube never got homesick. He was too happy playing football to think what he might be missing in Germany.
"What I like about football in this country is people take it more seriously," Grube said. "In Germany, it was a club sport so you always had guys missing practice because they had other things going on.
"It's different here. Everybody is required to be at every practice. It's a more businesslike approach and I enjoy that because I love football and I'm serious about it."
Grube has become one of Thiel's better players.
He started 12 games in his first three seasons with the Tomcats and gained honorable mention on the All-Presidents' Athletic Conference team last fall when he had a team-high 34 receptions for 325 yards and two touchdowns. That is a fairly significant accomplishment for a player who began his collegiate career as a kicker with limited football experience but worked his way on to the first-team offense.
"I came to America knowing the basics of the game but I've learned so much more over the last four years," Grube said. "I feel really confident now. I don't have to stop and think about things. It has become natural for me."
Thiel did not win a game in Grube's freshman or sophomore seasons but broke through with three victories last fall. The Tomcats have high hopes this season as Grube is one of 18 returning starters.
"We all have confidence in each other now," Grube said. "I know the tackle to my one side is going to make his block and I know the receiver to my other side is going to make the catch when the ball is thrown to him.
"We were through some very tough times but they made us stronger and made us better. We've learned how to win games and now I'm excited to see what we can do this season."sportscollegedistrict