Come September at Cal Poly, the stands at Alex G. Spanos Stadium will be filled and the bleachers in Mott Athletics Center will be packed.
The spotlight will be on, and a few Mustangs look poised to shine a little brighter.
That includes Sullivan Grosz, if preseason accolades are any indication.
Grosz, a senior defensive tackle on the Cal Poly football team, was named to the All-Big Sky Conference Preseason Team, the Sports Network’s Preseason All-American Third Team and the 2013 College Football Performance Awards preseason watch list.
As if that isn’t enough, there’s always the word of head coach Tim Walsh.
“I’ll be really shocked if he’s not an All-American this year, and I’ll be really shocked if he’s not drafted in the NFL Draft next year,” Walsh said. “We’re expecting, not good things from him, but great things from him.”
At 6-foot-4 and 292 pounds, Grosz is coming off a season that included 58 total tackles with 13.5 tackles for lost yardage and five quarterback hurries.
“I think (he’s) arguably one of the best defensive linemen at our level,” Walsh said. “In the country, not just in our conference.”
Grosz, a two-year team captain, earned a 4.10 GPA in high school and is currently majoring in business administration with a concentration in management and industrial technology.
He’s a community service advocate and a man who leads his teammates without saying a word.
“He does everything the right way,” Walsh said. “He’s everything you want in a team captain as far as how he acts on the field, off the field, in the classroom.”
Grosz isn’t the only Cal Poly fall athelete who embodies this type of all-around excellence, though.
Cross-country runner Laura Hollander finished ninth in the 2012 NCAA National Cross Country Championships and earned All-Academic honors in 2012, both of which she accomplished as an 18-year-old freshman.
“The bar is set pretty high,” head coach Mark Conover said.
And like Grosz, Hollander has also made an impact outside the athletic realm.
“She excels in the classroom first and foremost,” Conover said. “She exemplifies what it takes to find excellence here at Cal Poly.”
Hollander placed first in all of Cal Poly’s regular season meets while setting course records at the UC Santa Barbara Lagoon Open, Wisconsin Adidas Invitational and Big West championships.
“Obviously Laura is very dedicated and talented,” Conover said. “You put those two factors together and certainly you have somebody who races at a very high level.”
While Hollander has constructed a stellar résumé in only one season, another standout Cal Poly athlete will embark on her fifth season for the Mustangs.
Jennifer Keddy has been a staple of Cal Poly volleyball since 2009.
When asked what Keddy has meant to the program over the past few years, head coach Sam Crosson paused.
“I hope you’ve got a lot of time cause that might take a while,” Crosson said.
As the 2011 Big West Conference Player of the Year, Keddy led the conference with 4.06 kills per set and 4.85 points per set en route to her second AVCA All-America selection.
The Montana native earned all-state honors in high school, and has since participated in the U.S. Women’s National A2 Team Program, as well as the National Youth Team.
“She’s certainly an accomplished player,” Crosson said. “She’s going to be someone that we’re going to look to for leadership on the court and performance as well.”
Keddy redshirted the 2012 season due to a shoulder injury, and suffered a stress fracture in her foot earlier this year.
The recovery is an ongoing and steadily monitored process, but Keddy figures to be a force on the court when she returns to action.
“It’s certainly an exciting time to get her back in the gym,” Crosson said. “She has a presence on the court that we were missing from last year’s team.”
Despite Cal Poly’s disappointing 4-26 record in 2012, Crosson has his eyes on the prize: a Big West championship.
To complete that quest, Keddy’s role will become increasingly important against Big West opponents.
“In the long run, what’s most important is that she’s 100 percent ready to go once we get to conference play,” Crosson said.
Keddy, Hollander and Grosz are just three of Cal Poly’s game-changing fall athletes.
There will be other athletes who succeed this year, but day in and day out, keep an eye on these three.
If past stats and intangibles are at all indicative of future performance, Grosz, Hollander and Keddy are proven forces to be reckoned with in 2013.