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Update: Griffins talk football, the NFL, and offer advice for small-town kids with big-time dreams

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Garrett Griffin, in his third season with the New Orleans Saints, talks about scoring his first NFL touchdown

  • Gary and Garrett Griffin were part of our 2011 cover shoot and "8 Wonders of Kansas Football" feature. Garrett, who played football at the Air Force Academy, scored his first NFL touchdown in the NFC Championship. (Photo of Griffin from the Air Force Academy courtesy United States Air Force Academy Athletics)
    Gary and Garrett Griffin were part of our 2011 cover shoot and "8 Wonders of Kansas Football" feature. Garrett, who played football at the Air Force Academy, scored his first NFL touchdown in the NFC Championship. (Photo of Griffin from the Air Force Academy courtesy United States Air Force Academy Athletics)

This article originally appeared on January 20th. The article was updated January 30th after interviewing New Orleans Saints' tight end Garrett Griffin, and his father Gary, who both appeared on the 2011 cover of Kansas Pregame, to talk about what it was like to experience Garrett scoring a touchdown in the NFC Championship game. While the controversial loss remains a stinging defeat for Saints and their fans, it will remain a special milestone for the Griffin family.

Q&A with Garrett Griffin:

Q. What was it like to be called up from the practice squad and deliver a key block in helping the Saints seal their Divisional playoff win?

A. It was an awesome feeling but I was pretty nervous because my first snaps of the year were going to be in a playoff game. I had been preparing all year as though I was going to play at some point and we have a good group of coaches and veteran players that helped me prepare throughout the season. It was awesome to be on the field for that play and for the win, but it makes life pretty easy when you have running backs like Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.

Q. What was it like to catch your first career professional touchdown pass in the NFC title game?

A. The touchdown was an awesome experience, but I don't think I'm able to appreciate it as much because of how the game turned out. I think its one of those moments that I will be able to look back on after my career and be proud of. The best part about the day was having my family and my two best friends at the game. It was pretty special to have my dad there because it reminded me of winning state my junior year of high school and all of those guys have been with me since I started playing in fifth grade.

Q. Does it appear your future is with the Saints or is that currently unclear?

A. When the Saints activated me before the playoffs, I signed a two-year extension with them. I will still have to make the team after training camp, similar to the last three years, but it was a sign that they wanted to keep me around and not let me be a free agent after the season. I think I will have a good opportunity to make the team due to Ben Watson retiring, but you never know how its going to play out.

Q. Any suggestions for other small-town Kansas kids with dreams of playing in the NFL?

A. Kansas high school football is something I'm very proud of and I think over the last couple of years out-of-state college programs have started recruiting the state better. I still feel like KU and K-State don't do a good enough job of recruiting the state and I think more Kansas kids should be on scholarship rather than walking-on. With that being said, I think if a kid has a dream to play in the NFL, they shouldn't shy away from going to D2 schools in Kansas or Missouri, as well as FCS and NAIA schools. They play really good football at all three of those levels and the thing I've learned the past couple years is that no NFL team cares where you come from or what your story is, if you can play then they will give you a chance. We have guys that played football in Canada and there are guys that never played until they got to the NFL.

The biggest thing I would encourage high school kids to do is play two or three sports. Coaches at the next level love kids who play other sports and I loved my time playing other sports growing up. It helps you develop and mentally it is good to get away from football at times. I would say that if you work hard, you will continue to get opportunities to showcase your talents at the next level. I never expected to be in the position I am today but just because you are a small-town kid doesn't mean you can't accomplish your dream of playing in the NFL.

Q&A with Gary Griffin:

Q. What was it like to find out Garrett had been called up from the practice squad to play in the Saints' playoff win over the Eagles? Were you able to go to the game?

A. It was not a huge shock to hear that Garrett was going to get called up, there were a few times during the year we thought it might happen, and we knew he was ready. We found out on Monday and got plane tickets, and were able to beat the big snowstorm.

Q. How did you react when he made the key block to spring Alvin Kamara for the game-clinching first down?

A. His niche in the NFL is as a blocker, and he has worked really hard on that aspect as well as trying to be more well-rounded. He told us he would be in on a lot of the run plays and I thought he did a good job most of the game, but the block on the Kamara play was exciting to watch.

Q. What was it like to watch your son catch his first professional touchdown pass in the NFC Title game? Were you able to attend the game?

A. He told me he had a few routes in this game, but when Josh Hill went down in the first quarter with a concussion his role expanded. The play happened right in front of us, so we had a great view. I was a little shocked and it was very surreal. It took a while to set in, but I was very proud. He played over 40 plays in the game and I thought he did well.

Q. Do you have any suggestions for young football players who have a dream of playing FBS football and trying to earn a shot at playing professionally?

A. I would say to be be well-rounded. Garrett was a three-sport kid who got his name out there because he was really good in track and was all-league in basketball as well. He was always busy and loved competition. He didn’t really focus on developing his body to be just a football player until college. He also took academics seriously.

He chose the Air Force Academy, even though it was an FBS school, more for the academics and the opportunities it provided after graduation than for football. He also did track there. It was a struggle to manage all the different aspects of the academy and be an athlete, but he made it work.

I think he is a pretty good example of a small-town kid who set some pretty high goals and worked really hard. He was also lucky to get the window that the academies had for the Keenan Reynolds rule that allowed academy kids to compete right away, and do their service in the reserves. He also got lucky being with the Saints who were willing to spend the time to develop him and prepare him to play at a high level.

Find the original article about Griffin, and the video of his NFC Championship touchdown, below:

After being activated from the practice squad two weeks ago for the first time this season, and playing a pivotal role for the New Orleans Saints in last week’s Divisional playoff win, Louisburg native, and former Kansas Pregame coverboy Garrett Griffin scored his first career touchdown for the Saints in Sunday's NFC Championship game. Sadly for Griffin and the Saints the game was lost in overtime.

Griffin, a tight end who played collegiately at the Air Force Academy, delivered a key block against the Eagles in the Divisional playoff game to spring running back Alvin Kamara - himself a former Hutchinson Community College player - which yielded the game-sealing first down with less than a minute to go to send the Saints to the NFC title game with the Rams. The diving touchdown catch against the Rams came with 1:35 left in the first quarter. Check out the video from the NFL's Twitter feed below:



Griffin has spent much of his first three seasons in the NFL on the practice squad and is primarily a blocker and special teams contributor when active. 

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, Griffin played in 44 career games at the Air Force Academy and caught 41 passes for 678 yards and eight TDs. He also lettered on the Falcon track team in 2013 and was All-Mountain West in the javelin. He was a member of the dean’s list and was allowed to a pursue professional sports career upon his graduation rather than serve at least two years of active duty. The Gazette reports that Griffin is currently serving in the Air Force reserves.

Griffin was featured with his father Gary on the cover of the 2011 issue of Kansas Pregame as part of our “8 Wonders of Kansas Football” feature. Garrett starred for a Louisburg team that father Gary coached to the 4A title in 2010 and also the boys track team that won the 4A title in 2011.

Louisburg Sports Zone took at look at Garrett’s pursuit of the NFL dream in this article from 2016.

Sports Zone owner and operator Andy Brown editorialized about Gary’s impact as a coach in this editorial from 2017. Gary retired from Louisburg in the spring of 2017, but continues to teach and coach track in Adrian, Missouri.

Check out the feature on the father-son duo from the 2011 issue of Kansas Pregame below:

By Robert Falkoff, For Kansas Pregame

When he's out and about in his hometown, Garrett Griffin can hardly go anywhere in Louisburg without someone asking about the Wildcats' football prospects for 2011. "It's definitely a football town," said Griffin, the 4A All-State running back. "We like our other sports, but our community loves football."

What's not to love? 

Louisburg is coming off a 14-0 season and a first 4A state championship. It's a program which is largely fueled by the father-and-son duo of head coach Gary Griffin and son Garrett, who rushed for nearly 1,600 yards last year and is back for his senior season.

With the way the perfect season unfolded last year, it made for some pleasant conversations around the Griffin dinner table. Gary Griffin drew up the plays and Garrett Griffin executed them. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Garrett brings an espe­cially punishing element to Louisburg's bread­and-butter running game.

"He's more of a power running back," Gary Griffin said of his son. "He likes the physical part of the game and we do a lot of stuff between the tackles. By the end of the game, kids get kind of tired of tackling him."

When the Wildcats fell behind Holton 10-0 in last year's state title game at Salina, there was no panic on the Louisburg sideline. Slowly but surely, the Wildcats gained control of the game and wound up winning 24-16. It was Griffin's 43-yard touchdown reception that put Lousburg on top to stay. Griffin wound up with 154 rushing yards and had three receptions for 58 yards in the title game.

"That was a game I've been dreaming about my whole life," Garrett said.

Gary and Garrett Griffin hope to create more lasting memories this year, but it's going to be a challenge as the Wildcats try to defend their 4A title. Louisburg returns only two starters on offense and two on defense.

"We're going to be pretty young and somewhat inexperienced, but I think we' re going to be all right," said Gary Griffin, who took over as the Louisburg head coach in 2002. "I think we're going to have more depth this year. But we lost 12 to 15 really quality players. We just have to get some kids to come along and then figure out how many quality players we have this year."

Louisburg hasn't lost a game since bowing out of the 2009 playoffs against Bishop Miege, which had an abundance of big-time talent and cruised to the 4A title before moving up to 5A in 2010. Had Bishop Miege made the jump to 5A a year earlier, it's possible that Louisburg might now have back­to-back titles in 4A.

"To be honest that ('09 Louisburg team) was maybe as talented as last year's team," Gary Griffin said. "But you run into a team like Miege and you really don't have a chance. Our kids used it for motivation and last year turned into some­thing really special."

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