No one has ever accused senior receiver Jay Griffin IV of being slow.
A two-time Mountain West Conference indoor 200-meter champion at New Mexico, Griffin has proven to be just as quick at fitting in at Northwestern State as he is racing down a straightaway or through the open field.
“I feel like it was a quick transition,” Griffin said of adjusting to life as a Demon. “Being closer to home made me feel at home and helped me in football and in school. I immediately got close with a lot of my teammates – Kaleb (Fletcher), Marquise (Bridges), KP (Kendrick Price), Robbie (Williams), most of the receiver group. I feel like we’ve built a brotherhood, and that has helped me a lot.”
Griffin has proven to be an equally quick study on the field.
As Northwestern State (1-4, 1-1 Southland Conference) prepares to host McNeese at 3 p.m. Saturday, Griffin leads the Demons in receptions (23) and receiving yards (260) and shares the team lead in touchdown receptions (2) with Price.
Griffin would hold the lead in the final category if not for a run of tough luck that began in the season opener at North Texas and again reared its head in this past Saturday’s 21-17 win at Houston Baptist.
Against North Texas, Griffin’s 38-yard, third-quarter touchdown was taken off the board on an illegal shift penalty. In Houston, Griffin saw a 31-yard scoring catch erased by a holding call.
“The biggest thing is he’s making those plays,” receivers coach Rashad Jackson said. “He’s not dropping those balls or they’re not overthrown. He’s making plays. Unfortunately, they got called back. (At HBU) he quietly had nine catches. You don’t realize it, but he had 11 targets and nine catches. The two that didn’t get caught were on penalties, but he still made the catch. He’s done a really good job of moving on to the next play.”
Football and track and field long have had a symbiotic relationship, especially on college campuses.
As such, there are two schools of thought into which sprinters tend to fall once they step onto the gridiron – they are either football players who have a sprinter’s speed or a sprinter playing football.
Griffin and Jackson clearly agree into which category the 5-foot-10, 170-pound blur falls.
“You always think that exact thought,” Jackson said. “There’s no doubt he is a football guy who runs track. Sometimes you don’t realize just how durable those guys are. They can take a hit. Every time he’s taken a shot – if he’s taken one – he’s hopped back up and moved on.”
Regardless of categorization, Griffin has taken something from the track to the football field.
“My form is what most stands out to me,” he said of what translates from the track to the field. “Without the form I have in track, I couldn’t run as fast on the football field.”
Griffin’s first touch as a Demon provided a glimpse of his breakaway speed as he took a pop pass 43 yards around left end at North Texas.
Demon fans saw even more of it in NSU’s Southland Conference opener against Incarnate Word on Oct. 2. Trailing 21-3, Griffin ran a slant, took a pass from Fletcher and left the Cardinals in his wake on a 53-yard, catch-and-run touchdown that made Griffin feel as comfortable as he does on a track straightaway.
“It did (feel like a track meet),” Griffin said. “I saw the two defenders in my peripheral vision. That’s how it is in track. I just had the momentum to go, and it pushed me forward.”
In addition to leading the Demon offense in a pair of statistical categories, Griffin has helped push NSU forward equally with his versatility and his attitude.
“He’s an older guy coming into the program, so it’s been really good because he really gets the game at this level,” Jackson said. “He understands the expectation – how hard you have to go out and work every day. He’s been the same guy since Day One. He’s picked up a few different positions for us – from being in the slot to being out as the No. 1 guy. We’ve moved him around with motions and different things, and he’s picked up on it really well.”