Grasu (left, facing camera) and his Duck teammates visit sick children in a local hospital. (Photo: Craig Pintens)
Due to the complex nature of their position, three-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Bill Belichick calls centers the smartest players in football.
Due to his academic prowess and ambitious career plans, Hroniss Grasu’s professors might be inclined to agree.
Grasu has been a standout performer for the Ducks during his three years as a starter at center, anchoring the line for one of the most consistently explosive offenses in NCAA history. Since Grasu assumed the starting job as a freshman in 2011, the Ducks have never ranked lower than third in the NCAA in scoring. He’s raked in the personal accolades during that time too, being named first-team All-American by Sports Illustrated and being named a finalist for the Rimington Award, given annually to the nation’s best center, this season; and being named All-Pac-12 each of the last two seasons.
But life, to Grasu, isn’t just about football. Despite being projected as one of the first centers taken in next year’s NFL Draft, Grasu turned down the lure of immediate riches to return for the UO for his senior year, where he will help the Ducks make another run at a national championship, improve his already considerable playing ability, and complete his degree.
The last of those points is key, as Grasu, a general social science major at the UO, is already lining up not one but two post-football careers.
“I want to take over the family restaurant and do something else, own some properties and manage buildings,” Grasu said.
Grasu’s family owns the Greco’s New York Pizzeria chain of restaurants in Southern California, with locations in Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, and Tarzana. Growing up in Los Angeles, Grasu was a regular fixture at Greco’s, bussing tables and learning about what goes into keeping a business open—skills that have come in useful at the UO.
“I’m majoring in general social sciences with a concentration in applied economics, business, and society,” Grasu said. “It’s a really good major, and it’s helping me a lot.
“My favorite classes are all my business classes. Business management, my marketing classes, even the accounting classes. That’s something I’m really interested in. My favorite classes were something I could relate to, I could compare to my family’s restaurant. I could always bring up a certain relationship between the two.”
While Grasu is set to earn his degree in the spring, coming back for another year with the football team means he has more classes that need to be scheduled—classes that will lay the groundwork for his other planned post-NFL career of property management, one that he hopes will become another family business.
“I’m going to take advertising and real estate finance next term,” Grasu said. “That will be interesting. I want to know as much as I can about real estate. My cousin is a real estate lawyer, and with my brother and cousin we want to get enough money to buy some property and manage it.
“My biggest goal is to own a golf course or hotel, that would be awesome. We’ll start out small with houses and work our way up.”
For Grasu, who chose the UO in part because of the John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes and because, as he put it, “Our coaches always put school before football, and I really like that,” the future is clear. Equally adept at reading business textbooks and offensive playbooks, the 6-3, 297-pound student-athlete aims to graduate, compete for a national championship, enjoy success in the NFL, and become a business mogul.
And, along the way, prove Bill Belichick right.