Jake Grove...

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Here is an article on Jake Grove...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Reel Time For Raider


Mark Taylor

Dudley increases his time dealing with bass fishing

Surrounded by tiny ripples, the big fly floats tantalizingly on the quiet surface of the New River.

Jake Grove watches and waits.

Then, a swirl.

With a mighty tug, Grove rears back on his fly rod. The bug dances through the air, fishless.

"Wait a little bit on that," suggests Grove's friend, fishing guide Blane Chocklett. "It's not a linebacker."

It's tough to fault the guy for his intensity and quick reflexes.

Those traits, after all, helped shape Grove into a dominant center for the Virginia Tech Hokies and earned him a job with the Oakland Raiders in the NFL.

The delicate fly rod gripped gingerly in his massive hand, Grove waves the stick and casts again.

Another swirl.

This time Grove times it right and the hook hits home in the jaw of the 10-inch bass.

Coachability is another of those traits that have helped Grove excel.

"He tries to overpower them sometimes," said Chocklett, who became friends with Grove when the football star signed up to take one of Chocklett's fly-tying courses. "But he's just got natural talent, great hand-eye coordination.

"If he had time to really spend at it, he'd be really good."

Grove spends as much time fishing as he can.

During breaks at Tech, the consensus All-America center would hustle to the New River and nearby trout streams for a few hours of casting.

Finding time to fish during the NFL season is impossible, so Grove makes up for lost time during the offseason.

During a recent break from his duties with the Raiders, the 26-year-old Grove returned to his home in Forest and fished pretty much non-stop.

He spent a couple of days fishing for bluegills and bass in the pond on the family's farm in Forest. Then he and his dad headed up to the James for a float trip.

The next day came the New River float with Chocklett. A day later the two hit the James River for more smallmouth action.

Grove's father wasn't surprised how his son spent his vacation.

"He's after them non-stop," Chuck Grove said. "He wants to catch them."

And it's not because Grove, who is heading into his third year with the Raiders, finds fishing a relaxing release from the physically and mentally demanding world of football.

"If anything," Jake Grove admits, "I get more frustrated when I'm fishing than when I'm playing football."

When he takes his wife, Katie, Grove has an especially hard time.

"My biggest problem when I'm fishing with her is I want her to catch fish so bad I get impatient," he said. "And when I'm impatient, I'm worthless."

Like so many die-hard fishermen, Grove got started early, under the watchful eye of his dad.

"I traveled a lot," said Chuck Grove, a regional manager with the American Angus Association. "So when I was home, we fished whenever we could."

Jake Grove was just 5 when he started accompanying his dad and uncle on river float trips.

"We would have Jake sitting on the nose of the johnboat floating down the James River," said Chuck Grove. "He would fish for a little while, then want to play in the water."

Jake Grove wasn't yet a teenager when his dad took him out West for the first time to fly-fish for trout.

From a home base at Chuck Grove's parents' home in Salt Lake City, the two headed out to fish a Wyoming river called the Hamms Fork.

"That's where I got him into fly fishing," said Chuck Grove, 54.

Young Jake became a fly-fishing addict.

One summer when Grove was a teenager, a broken arm threatened to derail the annual summer trip. He went anyway, fishing as best he could with the arm in a cast.

That trip provided a scare for Chuck Grove, when they got separated on the river.

"He ended up below us, but we thought he was above us," Chuck Grove said.

With darkness falling, they finally connected. Jake hadn't been the least bit worried.

"He wasn't lost; we were lost," Chuck Grove said with a laugh.

Jake Grove has had some close calls on the water.

One early spring he wanted to go fishing for smallmouth bass on the New River. Like he often did, Grove decided to fish the stretch near McCoy Falls, not far from the Tech campus.

"There was a ¾-mile stretch that I usually fished," he said. "Sometimes I would do the stretch four or five times in a day."

Like usual, Grove was fishing from his single-man pontoon boat, which uses a seat affixed to two inflated pontoons.

He decided that day to try something he hadn't done before: running the falls' main chute.

"I figured the worst thing that would happen is I would tip over, grab the boat and swim out of there," he said.

Sure enough, he tipped over. But grabbing the boat and swimming out proved to be a challenge.

Grove was stuck in the hydraulic under the falls. Just when it seemed he was about to escape the power of the water, the current would pull him back.

Finally, Grove managed to escape the cauldron and get to a nearby rock.

"I almost died," he said.

Grove watched helplessly as his pontoon boat did cartwheels.

"My rod was still in the rod holder," he said, managing a grim chuckle.

After resting, Grove swam through calmer water to shore.

"A game warden showed up with a jet boat," Grove said. "But by then the boat was gone."

Exhausted, Grove headed back to school. Soon, his phone rang.

"The warden was calling to tell me he had my boat," he said. "He found it a mile downstream."

Grove, who still has that pontoon boat, had another fishing incident the following spring.

On the day before the NFL Draft, he was fishing for trout on Little Stony Creek, the tumbling mountain stream below the popular Cascades waterfall in Giles County.

Having a blast catching brook trout and rainbow trout, Grove wasn't even thinking about the important day that lay ahead.

"Then I heard this loud crack," Grove remembers.

Something smacked Grove in the head, temporarily stunning him. He could feel blood running down his face.

"I didn't know if I'd been shot or what," he said.

Grove quickly figured out what had really happened. He'd been struck by a falling tree limb.

The accident might have put a normal person in the hospital. But the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Grove was fine after a few stitches.

At Tech, Grove had a reputation as an intense competitor on the field, even earning the affectionate nickname "Dirty Grove" from some teammates.

Off the field he was a just low-key kid from rural Virginia. Despite his well-paying job in the NFL, he still is.

During his flights back and forth across the country, Grove sits in the plane's coach section.

When he decided he wanted a car to drive during his stays in Forest, he bought a 1983 Chevy Monte Carlo for $2,200.

"That's pretty funny," Chocklett said when Grove drove up in the car before that New River trip.

"My wife doesn't see the humor in it," Grove said, smiling proudly.

While some teammates don't blink at dropping $8,000 or more a night renting limos and securing VIP rooms in clubs, Grove is investing in real estate ventures, including a development in Blacksburg.

His personal house is far from fancy. Sitting in a quiet neighborhood in a suburb of Oakland, the house is just 1,900 square feet.

"I like the NFL lifestyle," he said. "But I'm more concerned about the next 50 years."

Grove did spring for one big "toy."

Two years ago, he bought a modest center-console fishing boat, which he left in Forest the first year.

"Last year he was miserable because the boat was here," Chuck Grove said.

Early this year Chuck Grove agreed to haul the boat to as far as Salt Lake City, where his son met him to take the boat the rest of the way to Oakland.

"I did get a nice grill out of it," Chuck Grove said of the reward for his efforts.

Jake Grove has taken the boat out on San Francisco Bay a couple of times.

He said he's eager to learn more about the fishing potential of the area, which includes the fertile California Delta and its world-class bass fishing.

Yet even though the Bay system is near his home, Grove's true waters will always be the rivers, lakes and streams of Southwest Virginia.
 
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