GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina rising senior inside linebacker Jeremy Grove officially announced Friday he will step away from college football for medical reasons after a decorated three-year career with the Pirates.
Grove, who helped ECU to a combined 23 victories and two bowl appearances during his tenure on the active roster, played through nagging right and left shoulder injuries, the latter of which required surgery after the 2011 season. However, recurring neck pain and subsequent nerve irritation that limited his action last fall marked the end of a career that was defined by his intensity, relentless approach and assignment detail.
His seven-stop effort to lead the Pirates to a 37-20 win over Ohio in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl on Dec. 23 pushed his all-time tackle total to 246 and solo hit count to 100. Grove booked multiple stops in 30 contests, was credited with five tackles or more on 24 occasions and reached 10 or more nine times, including a career-best 15 against UAB in 2011.
"I am thankful for the opportunity East Carolina University and Coach (Ruffin) McNeill gave me," Grove said. "This was a difficult decision, but after evaluating my neck at the end of the season, I feel it is better for my health and future to stop playing football. I will always cherish the memories I have of being a Pirate. The relationships I made and the memories I have will last a lifetime.
"This has been an amazing experience that has taught me a lot about life and my character. I want to thank my family, the coaching staff, athletic training staff and everyone who has supported me throughout my football career. If I could do it all over again I wouldn’t change one thing about my journey. GO PIRATES!"
After enrolling early and redshirting in 2010, the Frederick, Md., native turned in one of the most notable rookie campaigns in ECU history a year later. In addition to becoming the school's first C-USA Freshman-of-the-Year honoree after collecting a team-high 122 stops, Grove earned selection to five first-year All-America squads. His tackle total ranked third in the league, 10th among all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) players and first nationally among all freshmen.
As a sophomore in 2012, he stood second on the unit with 71 tackles and 36 solo stops to earn his second-straight all-conference honor. A noted run-stopper, Grove also topped all defenders in rushing tackles in back-to-back seasons, following an 85-hit performance in 2011 with 52 a year later
Grove started three of nine games as a junior in 2013 to help the Pirates to their second-highest win total (10-3) in program history. After opening the first two contests against Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic, he missed the next three outings because of injury. Grove returned to action at Tulane and closed out the year playing in six of the remaining seven games. In all, he recorded 41 tackles as a junior - tallying over half (21) of the stops in the last three contests against NC State, Marshall and Ohio.
“Jeremy played the game the way it's supposed to be played - with pride, toughness and a great amount of unselfishness,” McNeill said. “We will all miss his leadership and spirit, but I respect the decision he made for a much bigger game and purpose. He’s a Pirate and always will be."
Among all active FBS players at the conclusion of the season, Grove stood 25th with a 7.45 career tackles per game average. He was also responsible for 10.0 TFLs, one sack, two forced fumbles, five quarterback hurries and one interception during a career that spanned 33 games and 27 starts.