Class of 2012
Larry Groce is probably best remembered for being a member of Troy’s 1968 national championship football team. Groce was an all-conference selection on that championship team, but to those who knew him, he was more than just a football player.
“Larry was an all-around natural athlete,” said Jimmy Elmore, who played with Groce at Athens and Memphis. “He had the ability to play any sport. He was just as good at basketball and baseball and he could play different positions.”
Groce excelled at most everything he tried during his prep career, which began at Tanner in 1961. Groce played on the varsity football team, beginning as an eighth-grader for coach Kenneth Lewter.
“Early on, I saw that he had potential,” Lewter said. “He was just a very coachable player. He played tight end for us, but he was a very good kicker in a day when there weren’t many kickers. We really hated to lose him when he went to Athens.”
Before Groce eventually transferred to Athens for his senior year, he was selected to the all-county football and basketball teams during his playing days at Tanner. He was also a standout track athlete, qualifying for the shot put event at the state meet in consecutive years.
While Groce had become well known around Limestone County for what he was doing at Tanner, the multi-sport athlete was still relatively unknown to others around the state, particularly college scouts.
“The perception was back then that kids that went to the small schools couldn’t play against top competition,” Groce said. “You needed to be at a bigger school to prove you could play at the next level. It wasn’t a whole lot of difference. It was not that hard of transition to make.”
Groce made a seamless transition onto the playing field at Athens where he was named to the All-Tennessee Valley Conference and all-state teams his senior year. The Athens graduate was voted the team’s best blocker and held the school’s shot put record for a number of years.
“Larry was an outstanding player when he came in from Tanner,” said Larry McCoy, who coached Groce during his senior year at Athens. “We knew of him well because he was a good player at Tanner.”
Groce’s big senior year drew the attention of college scouts and he accepted a football scholarship at Memphis State. Groce said the decision to attend Memphis was an easy one.
“Jimmy (Elmore) was a year ahead of me and already down there,” Groce said about his former teammate. “I felt comfortable going somewhere where I knew people.”
Groce suffered a season-ending injury his freshman year at Memphis. Despite the injury, Groce was still able to kick during his sophomore season, but eventually decided to transfer to Troy for his junior year.
The move paid off when he made the switch from receiver to linebacker once at Troy.
“I felt like I had pretty good speed for my size back in those days,” Groce said. “By the time I got to Troy I was in the 240-pound range. I played weakside linebacker, but it more like a defensive end in those days. Really, it wasn’t that big of a transition. I always liked playing defense anyway.”
As a linebacker, Groce was a unanimous selection to the all-conference team in consecutive seasons at Troy. As a senior, Groce was part of Troy’s 1968 NIAI National Championship team, something he said he will never forget.
“That was a great experience, being able to win a national championship,” said Groce. “The thrill of being the best is great, no matter what level. Just to know that you are the best at the level you are playing at.”
Just as he was good at anything he tried in his athletic career, Groce has become equally successful in his professional career as a financial advisor and branch manager for Morgan Stanley in Montgomery.