Bruce Gradkowski set the modern standard for Rocket quarterbacks, smashing 27 school passing records in his three-year starting career. During his three years at the helm, Gradkowski led UT to a 26-11 record, a MAC Championship, two MAC West Division titles and two bowl games. Gradkowski is the Rockets’ career leader in passing yards (9,225), passing completions (766) and Touchdown passes (85), just to name a few. As a sophomore in 2003, Gradkowski completed a then school-record 71.2 percent of passes for 3,210 yards and 29 Touchdowns. Among the Rockets’ eight wins that season was a 35-31 victory over No. 9 Pittsburgh. Gradkowski threw for 461 yards and 3 Touchdowns in that game. In 2004, Gradkowski threw for a then school record with 3,518 passing yards, completing 70.2 percent of his passes and throwing for 27 scores. He memorably played the second half of the 2004 MAC Championship game with a broken throwing hand. Nevertheless, he threw three touchdowns in the final 30 minutes, leading the Rockets to a 35-27 comeback victory over Miami. In 2005, Gradkowski tied his own record with 29 Touchdown passes and led UT to a 45-13 romp over UTEP in the GMAC Bowl with 5 TD passes.
Bruce Gradkowski was named co-winner of the 2005 Vern Smith Award by the Mid-American Conference. The award, given annually to the league’s Most Valuable Player, was shared between Gradkowski and Western Michigan wide receiver Greg Jennings.
Gradkowski is the first Rocket to win the Vern Smith Award since running back Wasean Tait claimed the honor in 1995. Toledo running back Chester Taylor was runner-up for the award in 2000 and 2001.
Since his graduation from the UT College of Business in 2005 with a degree in marketing and management, Gradkowski went on to get drafted in the 2006 NFL draft with the 194th pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and head coach Jon Gruden. He started 11 games as a rookie.
Gradkowski then went on to play for the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Gradkowski played 11 years in the NFL with his most memorable game in 2009 while he was with the Raiders against his home town team the Pittsburgh Steelers. He broke a then franchise record throwing 3 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter with the final one coming with 15 seconds remaining to defeat the Steelers. After backing up Andy Dalton for two years in Cincinatti he went back home to finish his career backing up Big Ben with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Gradkowski now resides in Maumee, Oh with his beautiful wife Miranda. His daughter Lily (4), Roman (1.5) and baby number 3 on its way in July. He owns two restaurants in Toledo, Oh called Social Gastropub and a Hospice company called Pilgrimage Hospice in Pittsburgh, Pa