Lyndhurst’s Grasso: A little big man in every facet of the game

When Jeffrey Grasso was growing up in Lyndhurst, he was always a soccer player.

“I was always aggressive when I played soccer,” said the Lyndhurst High School senior. “So people would always tell me that I should try out for football.”

One of those people who told Grasso he should play football was none other than the Lyndhurst head coach Rich Tuero.

“I would stay on him all the time, telling him he should play,” Tuero said. “I just knew that he was a football player.”

Grasso finally listened to the soothsayers and tried out for football when he entered Lyndhurst High.

“I tried out and loved it,” Grasso said. “I just liked the team bonding and the way everyone got along. I just loved the sport itself. I love being aggressive and I love contact.”

While Grasso was just beginning his football career, he had to deal with family tragedy.In June of 2016, his father, Jeffrey Sr., died after a battle with cancer. Jeffrey Grasso, Sr. was 54 years old.

“We were pretty close,” the younger Grasso said. “He was always there to motivate me and support me. It was rough getting through it. That’s when real life hit me. I had to be mature for my mom, my sister and brother. I grew up a lot.”
“Jeff and I became real close after that,” Tuero said. “I told him that he had to be a man for his mom and family. He’s the man of his house now. It was time for him to step up.”

Grasso became a starter on the Lyndhurst football team that fall, starting as a linebacker. As a junior, Grasso took on the responsibilities of being the Golden Bears’ “Mike” linebacker, meaning that he made all the defensive reads and calls.

“I trust him that much,” Tuero said. “He has that passion and drive to succeed. All he wants to do is get to the ball. He wants to make the play. He likes challenging himself. Everything he does, it’s like 800 miles-an-hour and there’s no in-between. He has this short, little stocky body and he’s going all over the field. He manages to sneak in and make a play.”

Last Friday night, as the Golden Bears were playing host to Hanover Park in the opening round of the North Jersey Section 2, Group II playoffs, Grasso, now a senior, was managing to make plays all over the field.

Grasso collected 14 tackles, two of which were for losses, leading the Golden Bears to a 35-14 victory, the first win in the state playoffs for Lyndhurst since the Golden Bears upset top-seeded Rutherford in the first round in 2011.

For his efforts, Grasso has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

Grasso not only contributed on defense, but he also serves as the starting fullback, making several lead blocks for former two-time Observer Athlete of the Week Piotr Partyla, who rushed for 225 yards on 28 carries and scored four touchdowns.

“I do like playing offense a lot,” Grasso said. “I take a great amount of pride being able to help Pete out. He’s a tremendous player. I’m also helping the rest of the team out as well, so it means a lot to me.”
Grasso also caught a pass for 40 yards to keep a scoring drive going.

“I guess the opponent isn’t expecting me to do a lot, so whenever I get a chance to make a play like that, it means a lot,” Grasso said. “It was an amazing feeling to get out there and run with the ball.”

The Golden Bears, now 8-1, will face Verona in the sectional semifinals Friday night in Verona at 7 p.m.

Grasso said that he was a little surprised by his massive tackle number.

“I don’t pay attention to things like that when the game is going on,” Grasso said. “But I was surprised. I’m just doing what I have to do to help the team. Winning this game was one of the best feelings in the world, a home playoff game with the big crowd. It was amazing. I was very pumped to play. Before the game, I was dancing around like crazy, just jumping around, getting pumped together.”

Grasso likes having his defensive responsibilities.

“I like being a leader and having to keep the defense together,” Grasso said. “I have to do my best so that the others will follow.”

“I trust him so much,” Tuero said. “He puts the people in the right spots. He’s a vocal leader on the field who does everything the right way. He brings a lot of his heart onto the field with him.”

Grasso is also a leader off the field. He volunteers his time with the Lyndhurst Special Angels program, helping children with disabilities and giving them a chance to participate in sports.

“I enjoy it,” Grasso said. “I like seeing the kids smile. I agreed to do it and it is fun. It’s more than I could have imagined. Hopefully I inspire them when I’m on the field and can make them smile some more.”

Grasso has not applied to college just yet. He’s hopeful that some college will come along and recruit him to play.

“I’d like to get a chance to play in college,” said Grasso, who would like to major in physical therapy or try to become an athletic trainer in college. “I want to stay involved in sports somehow.”

And Grasso would love to keep playing past this Friday.

“I can’t wait for Friday night,” Grasso said. “I just want to keep on rolling and advancing. In the beginning of the season, I don’t think anyone could have expected this. But now that we’re winning, I just want to keep going.”

And somewhere in the Great Beyond, there’s a chance that Jeffrey Grasso, Sr. is looking down with pride as his son leads Lyndhurst football to places where it has never been.




Lyndhurst senior RB/LB Jeffrey Grasso. Photo by Jim Hague




Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”