Groman's long-standing NFL record broken after 63 years
It took 63 years, but someone finally dethroned Tiffin native Bill Groman '58.
Groman, one of the most highly regarded athletes in Heidelberg history, had 72 receptions for a rookie-record 1,473 yards for the AFL's Houston Oilers in 1960.
After withstanding high-profile challenges from the likes of Cincinnati Bengals' Ja'Marr Chase and Minnesota Vikings' Justin Jefferson in recent years, Puka Nacua -- a fifth-round pick by the Los Angeles Rams -- finally broke the record for receiving yards in a season by a rookie on Sunday, Jan. 7.
Of course, Nacua -- who played two years at the University of Washington before finishing his career at Brigham Young University -- needed 17 games to surpass Groman, who played in 14 games for the Oilers.
Groman was a three-sport star at Heidelberg. In addition to thriving as a halfback for the legendary Paul "The Fox" Hoernemann, he ran track and played basketball. In his senior year, the speedster led all of college football with 19 touchdowns and earned All-American laurels.
His path into professional football was unusual. Teaching and coaching in Perrysburg, Groman met Bob Snyder, a former NFL player and head coach of (ironically) the Los Angeles Rams. Impressed with Groman's athleticism while playing catch, Snyder put the 'Berg alum in contact with the upstart Houston Oilers organization in the fledgling AFL.
Enticed by an $8,000 annual contract, Groman tried out with the Oilers and made the team. Bolstered by a high-powered offense led by future Hall of Fame quarterback George Blanda, the Oilers went 10-4 and won the inaugural AFL championship.
Groman followed up his record-setting first year with 1,175 yards and 17 touchdowns in his second year. A devastating knee injury in the 1961 title game severely hampered his output for the remainder of his six-year career.
After his playing career ended, Groman enjoyed success as an NFL scout.
Though he called Houston his home, Groman often ventured back to his hometown. On many of those visits, he would meet up with 'Berg teammate, the late Cal DIlworth. The pair would meander across their Sweet Alma Home, often winding up in the football offices. There, they would regale the coaches and current players about their time on campus and beyond.
Groman, who passed away in 2020, was inducted into the Heidelberg Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986.