adidas 11pro Local High School
Gross, a study hall instructor who began working at the school in 1997 and became involved in athletics about four years later, has seen head coaches come and go, but he’s always remained on athletic staffs to support the student athletes.
Gross was part of Bradford’s WIAA Division 1 state football championship team in 2011, he was in Chicago for the 2015 NFL Draft when former Bradford standouts Trae Waynes and Melvin Gordon both went in the first round and he’s seen countless student athletes and students, in general come through Bradford.
He’s a man who remains in the background but seems to be known well by everyone affiliated with Bradford, and recently the Kenosha News took a “Timeout” with Gross.
Q: What’s your role on whatever coaching staff you’re a part of?
A: “Trying to do schoolwork. Dealing with the bridge between the families and the team. That goes in so many different areas. As you know, as we deal with the kids or people in general, there are a lot of hiccups along the road, and I try to smooth those things out, whether it be finding some clothes for someone, making sure people have got something to eat, making sure they’ve got rides home.
“Making sure the schoolwork is done, because one thing we do focus (on) here is, you’re a student athlete, so we do study tables. I run our study tables here for basketball. We also do it, if we need to do it, for football. I’ll be the one to make sure we get them in. Coach (Matt) Rizzo’s like, ‘Hey, Shawn, we’ve got a couple kids that need to get some work done.’ That’s me.”
Q: Is there a specific instance where someone came back and said or did something for you that was particularly memorable?
A: “Recently, I get a call, I get a text from Trae Waynes. And he was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got some stuff from Adidas. I’ll get you something.’ And, of course, you know me, I’m trying to do everything (to) get everybody else something. . And (he) was like, ‘No, this is for you.’ Just to show appreciation, because I don’t ask for anything.
“I do what I do because I love the kids. Any kid that I’ve ever mentored, I don’t want to say, ‘Hey, if you make it, you give me something back.’ It’s never that. It’s, ‘Thank God you made it.'”
Q: You’re known as “Unc.” When did that nickname start? Is it like you’re everybody’s uncle?
A: “Well, it started with Quanzell Murphy, Melvin Gordon and Gino DeBartolo. Those guys, as part of my mentorship, it’s like a family. We’re really close knit. You know, Gino has a father, Melvin has a dad, Quanzell had a dad. So I wasn’t trying to be ‘Dad.’ It was like ‘Unc,’ because I was so close to them, and that’s how they looked up to me.
“At first it was like,
‘OK, boy, don’t call me that.’ But I became so used to that being (my nickname).”
Q: Does everyone call you “Unc” now?
A: “Well, not everybody. A lot of the kids that I mentor (do). That’s that relationship that we have. But there are some kids who I have not directly mentored that may be friends with those other groups of guys that’ll be like, ‘Hey, Unc.’ And I’ll be like, ‘Who are you again?’ I’ve got so many people calling me that now my head is spinning.”
Q: You’ve been known to belt out the national anthem before games, too. Where’d you get the singing voice from?
A: “I’ve really been singing all my life. I grew up in church, and my brother was a part of a group, Anthony Powell Sr. . I have a sister who sings, Vanetta (Powell). They all sing. My family’s a singing family, and I’ve always wanted to be a part of that.
“I used to sit on the steps, wanting to sing with this group, and obviously I was too young. I was six, seven years old, so I would go home and sing in the mirror myself and say, ‘One day, I’m going to be better than them.’ And, after a while, I got better.”
Q: I remember the NFL Draft in 2015 so well, and you helped immensely to get interviews and access throughout the day and night.
A: “Great day! Great day!”
Q: We’ll probably never see that again in Kenosha sports history. What was that like for you, being so close to the families and players? Was it gratifying for you, too?
A: “This may sound funny to some people, but I’m the kind of person, I love being in the background. Even doing this interview is kind of uncomfortable for me, because I’m that background kind of person. I’m never trying to get in the forefront and say, ‘Hey, that was me. This is me.’
“I was so happy for them. More so, I was trying to get everybody involved. I was trying to get you involved. ‘Hey, come see these guys!’ Because I feel like they worked hard. These boys worked hard for what they’ve done. The families, they worked hard to get to this level.
“I was so thrilled, just being able to be there. And they’re like, ‘Hey, Unc, we want you to be a part of this with us.’ And I was ecstatic, but I was just so much more happy for them, and just being able to experience that was just unbelievable.”
Q: So, how old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?
A: (Hesitates) . “Forty two.”
A: “I’m just excited about being able to help. That’s my life. I believe that’s the purpose that God put me here for, was to be of help to somebody else. That’s my motto when I do my mentorship is, ‘Teach one, each one,
reach one.’ I live by that principle.