Griffin reflects on football career

Posted Oct. 27, 2006

Kelly Rivas

Honored to be one of four University of La Verne football captains, wide receiver Matt Griffin has been playing on the team for four years. Griffin started his football career in third grade playing flag football, followed by Pop Warner then high school and college football. He wants to keep some options open to play on a European football league team. Griffin is a senior journalism major but hopes to go into marketing after graduation.

In a green and orange sea of numbers, it is hard to single out any particular Leopard on the University of La Verne football team and senior wide receiver Matt Griffin, 21, would not have it any other way.

Stepping off the field of Ortmayer Stadium with the first win of the season (20-19) against Pomona-Pitzer on Sept. 30, he attributed the triumph to everyone but himself though it was obvious he had deliberately treated every challenge as his last.

“My goal is to first play and win games; I don’t want to be an individual on my team,” Griffin said. “I don’t care if I don’t catch one ball just as long as we win.”

He was the perfect picture of spirit, whether watching the game from the sidelines and anticipating his next opportunity to play, blocking the opponent’s potential gain or becoming a running No. 21 blur en route to catching the football and attempting a touchdown.

Ranked as one of the top five receivers in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, he said he respected his fellow teammates and the strong line of coaches supporting and building their efforts as much as the sport itself.

“I just love the game, there’s something about it that makes you keep coming back,” he said, chocking up a long-term obsession in a few simple words.

“You just go out and have fun; you don’t have to think about anything except competing against someone who thinks they can beat you.”

Though hardly superstitious, he has been known to don the same pair of game pants that he has worn since freshmen year, also avoiding newly painted chalk lines while on the field and warding off competition-spawned butterflies with a Snickers bar during halftime.

Off the field he could be said to exemplify the typically relaxed attitude of a sunny Californian, mostly wearing a uniform of shorts, a t-shirt, flip-flops and a baseball cap and referring to men and women, students and professors alike, as “dude.”

Comparable to “Friday Night Lights,” football was the most prominent sport in Griffin’s small town of Ramona, a community in San Diego with only one elementary, middle and high school.

He grew up playing football, beginning at the young age of 3, and went on to crave the momentary rivalry woven into each game.

As a three-year varsity linebacker at Ramona High School, he was scouted by such colleges as Cal Lutheran, Humboldt and ULV, settling on the school nearest his close-knit family.

He was not disappointed in the program, starting as a corner and switching to the wide receiver position during his sophomore year.

“We don’t have a Division I atmosphere but I know how hard I work and how hard my team works,” he said. “I think we’re more dedicated than other teams; we don’t get scholarships, we’re out there because we love the game.”

His football mentality has naturally lapsed into other aspects of his life, most notably demonstrated through his commitment to maintaining his grade point average and shaping his college résumé as a journalism major.

In between nearly perfect attendance at daily practices and team meetings, he has served as sports editor for Campus Times and is now spokesman for the La Verne chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Don Morel, head football coach, said Griffin had undergone a night and day transformation since freshmen year, evolving in every sense of the word.

“He’s improved in every possible way; he’s gotten faster, stronger and more agile and does a tremendous job all around,” Morel said. “He truly gives it his all out on the field and in everything he does.”

“He’s a leader and someone you can depend on because he cares about people,” added Joe Camacho, a senior liberal studies major and fullback for ULV.

Griffin said his parents had routinely attended his games since he was young, instilling the heart of an athlete in him.

His parents also taught him humility and respect for elders above all else.

As vice president of the YMCA, his mother put events together with major league teams, taking him and his younger brother David to Chargers and Padres’ games and also sparking his curiosity in journalism.

“It’s a really lively field that has always interested me,” Griffin said.

But he only recently discovered his true calling.

Serving as a sports intern at NBC during the summer; attending training sessions with the Chargers and Padres, interviewing star players and doing his best to make the jobs of the sportscasters easier, he “got his foot in the door” and geared him for his hopeful future profession. He said he hoped to return, eventually entering the field of sales and marketing.

Many Saturday games have blurred together over the years, but Griffin said one against the University of San Diego that resulted in defeat stood out the most.

It was a big moment for him as a freshmen and representative of Ramona High, where only two men had gone on to play college ball in eight years, because his former coaches sat with his family in the grandstands cheering on his never-ending enthusiasm for the sport.

“I’m definitely going to miss it,” Griffin said. “I don’t like to think that I only have four games left after homecoming; it’s really disappointing.”

Adrian Del Haro, a senior criminology major and tight end, said Griffin devotes himself to his team, family and friends.

“He’s really hardworking and dedicated; you kind of throw those words around but he defines them and I really admire how he’s progressed,” Del Haro said.

Kady Bell can be reached at

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