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The 23-year-old Grossman is not so determined to stand alone against the armies of conformity that he hasn't made room in his life for Homer and girlfriend D�Prise Brescia. Homer is six months old and still adorable, but soon, of course, he will begin to resemble Satan, which is evidently the first thing Grossman looks for in a pet. Burt's last dog was a pit bull that he named Bernie, in honor of New York City subway gunman Bernhard Goetz. D�Prise (who was obviously named in honor of what every Cracker Jack box has one of) models for magazines and lives with Burt. She has adapted to most of his eccentricities, with one notable exception. "I have a hard time with pets that you have to feed other live animals to," she says.
Grossman had actually predicted that his life in California would be filled with dogs and women, he just didn't know they would stay so long. "I'll probably get a dog in San Diego," he said before leaving for the West Coast last summer. "Either a dog or get married. There's less aggravation with a dog. To get rid of a dog, you take it to the ASPCA and it doesn't get half your money."
If breeding counts for anything, Grossman was born to play football and born to shoot off his mouth. He is a cousin of former Pittsburgh Steeler tight end Randy Grossman, and his half sister is noted baseball aficionada Margo Adams. "For my bloodlines, I'm very conservative," he says. He has never spoken to Adams, which stands to reason because Grossman has never actually seen in person the national pastime—baseball, not extramarital sex—and practically the only people in all the world Grossman doesn't talk to are members of his family. "I've never been close to anybody in my family," Grossman says. He never met his grandparents, all of whom are now deceased, and he has not spoken to his mother in 10 years.
Grossman's parents separated when he was in the third grade, while the family lived in Bala Cynwyd, on suburban Philadelphia's fashionable Main Line. "We had no idea my parents were getting a divorce," he recalls. "My sister and I came home from school one day and there were four moving trucks outside the house." His mother, Cathy, had decided to leave his father, Burt Sr., a construction superintendent, and she told her two children they were coming with her. "She took all the money out of the bank, all the furniture out of the house, and then we just disappeared," Burt says. "She never told us we were leaving, or why. Never told our teachers, never told my father. He didn't know where we were for the first year."
Cathy Grossman moved them about 50 miles outside Philadelphia, to Bucks County, got herself a job as a waitress working nights, and for the next few years she saw to it that the trail behind them stayed cold. "It turned into a thing where we were moving every year," Burt says. "She was strange." He says he rarely saw his mother, and that he and his sister, Carole, never had baby-sitters. "When your mom works you have a lot of time to do what you want," he says. "I had a little too much time. I was a troublemaker, always getting into fights, and I had bad grades—straight F's, as a matter of fact.
"When I was in the sixth grade my mother kicked me out of the house. She said, 'You're going to live with your father. I don't want you here.' He came and picked me up one day, and that was the last time I ever saw her."
After moving back to his father's house in Bala Cynwyd, Burt attended public schools until the 10th grade, when he transferred to Archbishop Carroll. "I had my usual all F's, and then it was time for Catholic guidance," he says. "If I hadn't gone to Catholic school, I'd probably be wrestling Ric Flair for the NWA title instead of playing pro football." As a senior in 1984, he was one of the top high school shot-putters in the country, even though he rarely trained for the event, and he was a highly recruited defensive lineman. "By my senior year I had more power than the school principal," he says modestly of his schoolyard stature.
In a typical snap decision, Grossman chose to attend Pitt, where the Panthers were coming off a 3-7-1 season. "I don't want to say the place was corrupt, but they made you a lot of promises when you went there for a visit, and when you got there the place wasn't as great as they said it was," he says. "It's in the middle of a slum, and in the daytime you can tell it's a slum because it's dirty and there are bums around. But at night everything looks a little better, it lights up, all the bars are open, and everybody's partying. So they keep all the kids they're recruiting at the nicest hotel downtown, and they never bring them to campus during the daytime. When nighttime rolls around, that's the only time they get to see Pitt."
While Grossman was at Pitt, he drove a Pontiac Trans Am, a black Camaro IROC, a red IROC and a Porsche. "That was another big mystery when I was in college—why I had a new car every year," says Grossman, who is much more candid when he's talking about other people than about himself. In this case he refuses to explain how he got the cars. His first IROC was blown up, but he insists it was nothing personal. "They have a system in Pittsburgh," he says. "They steal your car, and after they strip off what they want, they blow it up. The thieves get what they want, and you get the full insurance."
Grossman had several addresses at Pitt, and he developed a love of animals that seemed to grow with each stop. "If you live on campus, everything's cockroach-infested and there are rats everywhere," says Grossman, who lived in a dorm as an underclassman. "Pitiful places, you can't even imagine." In any case, Grossman's affection for rodents grew enormously when he moved off campus and bought two baby alligators to go with a pet boa constrictor. "They eat mice, that's the big thrill," he says. "The alligators weren't that big, but one of them got loose one day, so I had to get rid of them." To fill the terrible void in his heart, Grossman brought home a tankful of piranhas. To cheer himself up, he would drop live goldfish into the tank and dream about quarterbacks.