Throughout his career as an NFL coach and broadcaster, Jon Gruden has been surrounded by a host of powerful athletes.
Pound for pound, his son might be the strongest of them.
Jon “Deuce” Gruden II, 23, is the eldest son of the former Raiders and Buccaneers coach and is ascending to the pinnacle of a sport other than football. He will compete next week at the International Powerlifting Federation World Classic Powerlifting Championships in Minsk, Belarus. His parents will be making the trip with him.
Gruden is seeded second in the competition based on his age and weight divisions.
He’s an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Washington Redskins – coached by his uncle, Jay Gruden — and at 5 feet 5, 180 pounds is a tank in tennis shoes. Deuce played receiver, then running back at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., before turning to powerlifting.
“There were weights I couldn’t come close to budging when I was in college,” he said, “and now I’m ripping off five sets at a time. It’s one of those things where you get to see how far you’ve come.”
The Redskins carved out time last fall for Gruden to compete at nationals, and didn’t flinch two weeks ago when officials from the sport came to the team’s facility to give him a standard drug test.
A competition is composed of three lifts: squat, bench press, and dead lift. Gruden has put up staggering numbers in each, squatting 622 and bench pressing 440. Dead lift has been the most challenging discipline for him; he has lifted 666 pounds in workouts and is looking to do that in competition.
“He’s been lifting a long time,” Jon Gruden said. “We have a weight room at our house, and I brought home a CD with some of my favorite rock-n-roll songs on there. I used to listen to Bachman Turner Overdrive, Van Halen and AC/DC back when he was in the seventh grade and I could hear the weights over the music. He’s the most self-motivated kid I’ve ever known.”
Jon credits his wife, Cindy, a former University of Tennessee cheerleader, for Deuce’s strength and DNA-encrypted dedication.
“I mean, I lifted,” said Jon, a former small-college quarterback. “I took pride in trying to be as strong as I could. I never got anywhere in the same ZIP code as this guy. His mother is a physical-fitness freak. Weight lifting to Deuce is like football to me.”
Gruden said his son has “been focused and determined and has made a ton of sacrifices that nobody knows of.” One of those was adjusting his eating habits at an early age, always opting for the healthy alternative.
“I used to drive down the road with he was 7, 8 years old and say, `Hey, you want some French fries?’ And he’d say, ‘Nah, I don’t want any,’” said Gruden, color analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” “I don’t believe he’s ever had a French fry or ever drank a Coke. It’s got nothing to do with me or nothing to do with his mom. He’s got no fat. I bet if they did a body fat on him, it would be negative.”
Now that dedication appears to be paying off. There is a downside, however. The younger Gruden gets a lot of requests from friends who want him to help them move.
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