When The Oakland Raiders take the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field, it will be an especially memorable moment for QB Bruce Gradkowski. The Raiders starting quarterback will lead the team in front of roughly 100 family members and friends cheering on the Pittsburgh native.
"There is going to be a lot of family. I can't even name how many family and friends are going to be at the game. There are too many to get tickets for," Gradkowski explained. "I am excited to get home, see everyone, and just have a good time. There are about 100 people going of family and friends."
Entering his third game as a starter for the Raiders, Gradkowski hopes to duplicate his performance from Week 11 against the Bengals. In that game he threw for 183 yards and two touchdowns, but more importantly led the team to a thrilling come-from-behind 20-17 win.
"I think we have a good group of guys with a lot of talent on this team. We have a lot of young receivers and they are continuing to progress and that is all you can ask of them," Gradkowski said. "If we continue to work hard and prepare during the week our time will come. I feel it and I see it and you just have to roll with the punches right now and continue to work hard."
Before attending the University of Toledo, Gradkowski starred at Seton-La Salle High School in Pittsburgh. As a senior he threw for 2,978 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Seton-La Salle High School plays in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL). Notable NFL quarterbacks who have played for the league's various high schools are Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas, and Joe Namath.
"I really looked up to Dan Marino growing up. Being that he is from the area and our dads worked together, I really followed him as a kid," Gradkowski stated.
Sunday's game marks the third time Gradkowski will play in front of his family and friends in his hometown.
"I started in Pittsburgh twice (previously). I started once as a rookie and another time last season when I was with Cleveland. It is always exciting getting back to Pittsburgh," Gradkoswki explained. "My whole family is from Pittsburgh and I grew up watching the Steelers and the Steelers are a great football team. Anytime you get to compete against a team like this we know it is going to be a tough game and we are looking forward to it."
Before the game, Gradkowski is already planning to take a few of his teammates to meet the family. "I am just going to take some of the guys to my parents' house and eat. My mom likes to cook for everyone. She'll have a good spread for us. Hopefully I can get a few of our offensive linemen over and feed them well before the game," Gradkowski joked.
Regardless of the outcome in Sunday's game, Gradkowski knows that his family and friends will be there to support him.
Gradkowski added, "I have family that are Steelers fans but I know that whenever I put on a jersey of the opposing team they will still cheer for me."