South Xtra: Bethel Park's Grimm takes final bow before moving on to Pitt


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Bethel Park's Mike Grimm has always been big.

Really big.

He weighed more than 200 pounds in fourth grade. By sixth grade, he was already 6 feet tall.

Playing football for the final time before he heads to college, Grimm will do it big again Saturday when he takes part in the Big 33 Classic at Hersheypark Stadium.

Grimm is one of nine players from the WPIAL -- including four from the South Xtra area -- who will suit up for Pennsylvania, which will take on Maryland in the 57th annual all-star game featuring top graduating seniors. Kickoff is set for 7:06 p.m. and a live stream of the event is scheduled to air on Big33.org.

The other South Xtra players participating are McKeesport's Jawan Hill, Upper St. Clair's Ben Huss and Thomas Jefferson's Cole Costy.

In last year's game, former Clairton standout Tyler Boyd dazzled in a 58-27 Pennsylvania win. Boyd returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and later added a pair of touchdown catches, a touchdown run and a touchdown pass.

Like Boyd was, Grimm is a Pitt recruit. It's highly unlikely Grimm will score even one touchdown -- he's a 6-foot-6, 310-pound offensive lineman -- but that obviously hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for playing in a game he has longed to be a part of.

Grimm isn't the first person in his family to play in the Big 33.

"My uncle, Matt Fornadel, played in the Big 33 in 1993," Grimm said. "He was the last one from my family to play in it. It's kind of cool for me to be doing it, too."

Fornadel went on to play at Penn State, and three of Grimm's other uncles also played college football.

Last month, Grimm played in the PSFCA East-West All-Star Game at Franklin Regional.

The Big 33 is a week-long event for Grimm and the other participants. The players arrived in Hershey Sunday. They spend most of their days practicing -- they started things off with three practices Monday -- make community appearances, and begin and conclude each day at the homes of their respective host families.

"We'll be practicing, but we also have a lot of fun stuff planned. I'm just excited to meet new people," Grimm said.

Grimm will be joined by one other future Pitt player, defensive back Patrick Amara from Philadelphia West Catholic.

Also representing the WPIAL will be Sto-Rox's Lenny Williams and Mallory Claybourne, Aliquippa's Terry Swanson, Central Catholic's Niko Thorpe, and Franklin Regional's Colin Jonov.

Eight other WPIAL players were originally picked for the team, but chose not to participate because of other commitments. Among them were Mt. Lebanon's Troy Apke and Alex Bookser, and Thomas Jefferson's Chase Winovich.

Franklin Regional's Greg Botta and Gateway's Tom Nola are two of the assistant coaches.

Many Big 33 "alumni" have gone on to have great college and professional careers. At least one Big 33 alumnus has played in each of the 48 Super Bowls. Three former players played in this past Super Bowl.

The game will serve as another opportunity for Grimm to showcase his talent. Grimm, who will likely play left tackle Saturday, was one of the most highly recruited players in Pennsylvania and rated as one of the Top 30 offensive tackles in the nation by Rivals. As a senior, Grimm was named first-team all-state and selected to the Post-Gazette's Fabulous 22 team.

Grimm committed to Pitt last June, picking the Panthers over a long list of suitors that included West Virginia, Wisconsin, Arizona and Baylor.

The other three South Xtra players taking part in the Big 33 will also play in college. Huss and Hill will be teammates at Duquesne, while Costy will attend Youngstown State.

His final high school game just two days away, Grimm said he is looking forward to taking the next step in his career.

"Yeah, I'm excited," he said. "We move in [at Pitt] on June 22. I'm excited to get down there and start my career there.

"I don't really have too many expectations. I just want to do my thing in camp, just work hard and see where it takes me."


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