Indiana’s Griffith grateful for chance to play football following near tragedy

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Unwanted limelight has faded even as health has returned, and Isaac Griffith loves it. He’s a bit player in Indiana’s projected air show, and that’s cool. He’s a receiver with a purpose, and it is not to whine or gripe.

One play against Indiana State?

Way down the Hoosiers’ depth chart?

No guarantee to see action Saturday at Bowling Green?

Griffith is alive and blessed with Big Ten football opportunity.

Mission accomplished.

Facing death, you see, provides a hell of a perspective lesson.

“I’m more of an upbeat kind of guy now,” the former Homestead standout says. “I don’t look at it as a bad thing anymore. I’m trying to have fun, even if practice is a grind, even if I’m busting 200 mph. I try to give every play that. Look where I was five months ago, and look where I am now. I can’t complain about what is going on.”

Last spring Griffith lay on a Florida beach, his lungs full of salt water, on the cusp of losing it all. Then, his own youthful strength and fitness, combined with massive help from friends Mitch McCune, Nick Stoner and Ty Smith, and the staff at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, brought him back.

Now he’s fully recovered and ready whenever he gets the chance.

“I’m just waiting for my name to be called. I’m leaving it to the coaches. I’m doing my job and doing what they tell me to do.”

Indiana Athletics
Griffith must work his way onto the field.

Sports are full of high-maintenance kids, of glory seekers and enabled prima donnas and those ruled by me-first agendas.

And then there is Griffith, the son of a college coach (Manchester University’s Shannon Griffith), who understands the substance behind the image.

“Most definitely I’m thankful. There are no regrets. What my dad told me right before I came back is that there are no ‘would ofs’ or ‘should ofs’ in life. They don’t exist.

“I never think that I should have done this, or what would have happened, because it didn’t happen. I bust my butt. My coaches expect that out of me every day. I do what I’m told to do.”

Griffith is listed at 6-foot and 195 pounds, 10 pounds more than last season. That’s impressive given that, in the aftermath of nearly drowning, he was below 160.

“The strength coaches did a lot with me in the off-season. I lost a lot of weight, but I gained it back, and even more. I gained about 30 pounds on my main core lifts. My coaches are really pushing me to get back to normal. I feel fine.”

As far as playing time, Griffith is well down a list topped by veterans Shane Wynn, Nick Stoner and Isaiah Roundtree, along with heralded freshmen Simmie Cobbs, J-Shun Harris and Dominique Booth. Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns says he’ll play eight or more receivers and that Griffith is “competing for playing time.”

What will it take to win the competition?

“I have to get everything down to where it’s perfect,” Griffith says. “I’m a perfectionist on what I need to do, so if I notice something wrong, I have to fix it.”

I’m just waiting for my name to be called. I’m leaving it to the coaches. I’m doing my job and doing what they tell me to do.
— Isaac Griffith

For now the focus is on Bowling Green (1-1). Former Bishop Luers standout James Knapke is the quarterback. He’s coming off the first start of his career after veteran Matt Johnson’s season-ending hip injury against Western Kentucky.

Griffith and Knapke played together on AWP Sports 7-on-7 teams.

“I know he’ll be ready,” Griffith says. “He has a good arm. He’s a very smart quarterback and he has a good team with him.”

The Hoosiers (1-0), coming off a bye week, are ready to show far more than they did in their run-dominated 28-10 win over Indiana State.

“Our defense is flowing; the offensive is getting back in rhythm of running and throwing really well,” Griffith says. “In our last game, we didn’t show our pass game much. We really want to balance it out and do what we can.”

Griffith will do what he can and whatever that is, whether it’s 30 plays, one or none, he’s ready.

“It’s been six months since the accident. I have to get back to just focusing on football. It’s a process and not everything happens overnight.

“Wherever the coaches tell me to go, whatever they tell me to do, I don’t ask questions or anything. I just want to play ball.”

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