David Gross estimates he has been attending football games at the University of Maine since he was 9.
He has no plans to stop.
The Bucksport High School senior, barely a week removed from being named winner of the state’s Gaziano Offensive Lineman of the Year Award, will join the UMaine football program this fall as a preferred walk-on after making an official visit to the Orono campus over the weekend.
“When I got there it was a complete family atmosphere for me. I was brought in immediately by the players and coaches and treated like I had been there for years,” said Gross, who will formalize his status during a ceremony at his high school on Wednesday, the first day of the latest National Letter of Intent signing period.
“There were a lot of guys that I already knew who were going there and a lot of guys already on the team that I knew. It was a good experience.”
That visit fit with Gross’ goal of continuing his football career within a familial environment that builds on his high school experiences.
“The way I saw it was that I wanted to go through this process for the next four or five years with the people I’ve been going through it with now, and the best way to do that was at UMaine,” he said.
“I’ve already experienced a lot of the Maine football community, not just at Bucksport High School but all of Maine’s football community like at the Gaziano Awards. They’re just great to play for and represent and I want to keep representing them.”
The 18-year-old Orland resident won’t play immediately at UMaine. He’s awaiting surgery on his left medial patellofemoral ligament, which attaches the kneecap to the inner part of the knee and helps stabilize the area, after dislocating his knee at least twice during his high school sports career.
But a redshirt year not only will allow Gross to rehabilitate his knee, but also begin to adjust to the increased speed and strength of Football Championship Subdivision football.
“It’s really motivating me to get my surgery done and get better and then get to work,” he said.
The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Gross, who also considered attending the University of New Hampshire before opting for UMaine, will take an impressive athletic resume to the Black Bears’ program.
In addition to winning the Gaziano Offensive Lineman of the Year Award, Gross also swept all of the top awards from the Little Ten Conference after leading Bucksport to its first Class D North championship since 2013.
Gross was named winner of the league’s Art Greenlaw Player of the Year Award, the Bob Carmichael Defensive Lineman of the Year Award and the George “Toogie” McKay Offensive Lineman of the Year Award as well as being selected to the All-LTC first team on both offense and defense.
Gross previously won the Carmichael Award in 2017 and the McKay Award in 2018 for his work in the trenches for coach Joel Sankey’s Golden Bucks.
Gross also is a two-time wrestling state champion. Last winter he not only captured the 285-pound state title, but also finished second in the New England championships. There, he lost in the finals 5-4 in overtime to Matteuz Kudra, a two-time high school All-American from North Attleborough, Massachusetts.
He finished his junior year with a 33-1 record, including a state-record four-second pin early in the season.
Gross, who plans to study cybersecurity at UMaine, said head coach Nick Charlton and the rest of the coaching staff envision him at center for the Black Bears after playing mostly tackle in high school.
“I haven’t played it much but I’m ready for the challenge,” Gross said. “I think center is one of the, if not the most, important positions on the offensive line. You’re kind of the brains of the line. You’ve got to make the calls, and a lot of it depends on you.
“I’m excited about it.”