The majority of players who have made it to the National Football League have played the game since their Pop Warner days. Single-digit aged warriors running around on the gridiron with helmets that appear way too big for a head as small as that. But rarely do you encounter one that was nearly old enough to vote before strapping on the shoulder pads.
“I didn’t play football until my senior year in high school,” says John Griffin, the first-year running back of the New York Jets. “I had played basketball and ran track while living in Texas, but I moved to Massachusetts and the new school’s track coach was also the head football coach. He wouldn’t let me do track unless I played football.”
Griffin started out as a wide receiver, but was eventually moved to the backfield because his coach wanted to give him more touches. But he was still raw and played with the second stringers. It was the same scenario once he graduated and moved on to North Eastern University to play at the collegiate level.
“I didn’t even start until my junior year in college,” recalls Griffin, who also had to find a new place to play after his school canceled their football program that season. “They allowed me to play football at UMass for my last year.”
After going undrafted in 2011, Griffin, 24, signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as a free agent. Although he made it to the final cut, the Austin native did not make the 53-man roster. “They had a core group of veteran running backs and it was a numbers game,” Griffin admits.
Instead of sitting home waiting for the telephone to ring, Griffin signed with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League and was able to play alongside of Maurice Clarett, the talented but troubled former Ohio State Buckeye and Denver Bronco.
“He (Clarett) is a workout warrior,” says Griffin. “He took me under his wing and gave me advice in football and life in general.”
After the UFL season concluded, the 5’11”, 213-pound Griffin was signed by the Jets but was waived during the 2012 training camp. This gave him an opportunity to return to Omaha and gain more valuable experience playing the game and providing more live film for NFL scouts. That November, he was re-signed by the Jets and was activated for the team’s final regular season game.
Heading into the 2013 campaign, Griffin sees himself right in the mix for Gang Green’s rushing attack. “They don’t have a proven guy, so it’s an open competition,” he says. “I’ve been waiting for my opportunity.”
He will surely get a good look this summer as the team’s number one back Shonn Greene left for Tennessee as a free agent. The Jets did acquire Chris Ivory from New Orleans, but a player with a strong work ethic like Griffin (who will wear uniform number 24 this season with the departure of
perennial All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis) has just as much reason to expect to win the starting job as the former Saint does.
But this would have all been a moot point if that high school coach didn’t have such stringent rules.
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JOHN GRIFFIN’S WORKOUT
MONDAY – lower body (6 to 10 sets per body part)
TUESDAY – upper body (6 to 10 sets per body part)
WEDNESDAY – sprints, field drills/core, hip mobility
THURSDAY – lower body (10 to 15 sets per body part)
FRIDAY – upper body (10 to 15 sets per body part)
*On Thursdays and Fridays, Griffin will use lighter weight and concentrate on explosive movements.
*On Wednesdays, sprints and field drills are done during the offseason and core/hip mobility during the season.
*Griffin performs stretching every day at the end of his routine.
*Each workout takes approximately two hours.
JOHN GRIFFIN’S DIET
*High protein, high carbs, low fat
MORNING – eggs, oatmeal, fruit
BEFORE WORKOUT – protein shake
AFTER WORKOUT – largest meal of the day that includes a lot of carbohydrates, such as a chicken burrito.
DINNER – grilled chicken sandwich on wheat bread
Photos courtesy of John Griffin