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College Football

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Auburn QB Gross to focus on baseball

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Posted: Tuesday September 21, 1999 05:38 PM


AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Gabe Gross, the spunky Auburn quarterback who lost his starting job one game into the season, quit the team on Tuesday to play baseball full time.

"I have to concentrate on playing one sport now," Gross said. "I have enjoyed my time with the Auburn football team, but I think this decision will be best for my future."

Gross, a sophomore two-sport athlete and the son of Auburn's former All-SEC center Lee Gross, was replaced by Ben Leard during the third quarter of the Tigers' season-opening win over Appalachian State.

He was 5-of-14 for 25 yards and two interceptions when Leard, a junior, replaced him. New coach Tommy Tuberville then said Leard would be the new starter.

Leard has led the Tigers to a surprising 3-0 record and is coming off the best game of his career. He threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns in Auburn's 41-7 win over LSU last week.

"I think Gabe's decision may not have happened had Ben not played the way he has the last two games," Tuberville said. Leard also completed his first 12 passes and went 16 for 19 in a win over Idaho.

Tuberville said Gross told him Monday he was leaving the team. Last week, Tuberville had Gross practice on special teams to give him a chance at playing time.

"Gabe has been great for us, he's been great leadership for us on the sidelines and he handled not being a starter well," Tuberville said. "I think it's time for him to be selfish, time for him to do what's best for Gabe Gross."

Gross, who is on football scholarship, is a star on the Tigers' baseball team. A natural third-baseman, he was moved into left field midway through last season to protect his throwing shoulder.

He batted .363 last year and was second on the team with 65 RBIs. He also led Auburn with a .567 slugging percentage and started the season with a 19-game hitting streak. At the time, baseball coach Hal Baird said Gross' future was in baseball not football.

"We feel like his ceiling is very high as far as baseball is concerned," Baird said.

Gross, who spent the spring shuttling back and forth from baseball games and football practices, said Tuesday he'd like to try to play professional baseball. He thanked Tuberville and Baird for allowing the arrangement.

"At this time, I'm just looking forward to playing baseball for the entire year," he said.

Gross became Auburn's starting quarterback during last year's 3-8 season. Then-coach Terry Bowden grabbed the freshman midway through a game against Tennessee and sent him in for an injured Leard.

Bowden said he didn't think Gross even knew any plays, but had no choice but to use him. Gross surprised everyone by giving Auburn a chance to upset the Volunteers, until his desperation pass at the end of the game fell short in a 17-9 loss.

He took the job away from Leard that day and started six of Auburn's games. He threw for 1,222 yards and seven touchdowns on an offensively challenged team.

Related information
Auburn changes starting QBs after opener
Game Recap: Auburn at LSU
Ex-Auburn coach Bowden goes on defensive
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