Griffith committed to Indiana on Monday, a day after getting a scholarship offer, and if it isn't binding until he signs a national letter of intent next February, don't overlook his enthusiasm. He's IU's first commitment for the Class of 2013, and he wants to make the most of it.
“I'll recruit skill guys. I'll recruit big guys. I'll recruit guys who want to compete and win, guys who want to build something special. That's what Indiana is going to do. That's why I committed there so fast.”
The 6-foot, 185-pound Griffith is rated as the state of Indiana's No. 19 player by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service. Last season Griffith caught 60 passes for 1,112 yards and 23 touchdowns. That includes a nine-catch, 176-yard, three-touchdown effort in Homestead's 44-41 sectional loss to Kokomo.
“I'm excited,” he said. “I'm ready to get down to Bloomington and play for them now, but I have to wait a little longer.”
Griffith, the son of Manchester College football coach Shannon Griffith and a three-star recruit (out of five stars), said he grew up dreaming about playing in the Big Ten. Indiana will give him that chance.
“Not many schools do you get such a good vibe right away and say, that felt good,” he said. “It felt right.”
Griffith was offered a scholarship after attending an IU elite camp on Sunday in what turned out to be an audition with coach Kevin Wilson. Assistant coach Kevin Johns had watched Griffith work out in Fort Wayne. He was impressed, but he couldn't make the scholarship call. Only Wilson could.
“He said everything was fine with him, but he had to go with what the head coach says,” Griffith said. “(Wilson) had to see me. Coach Wilson told me to come to camp and he'd evaluate me. Basically, it was an audition. We did a lot of drills, a lot of one on ones, and just ran a lot of routes for him.”
Griffith was conducting his own evaluation. He had scholarship offers from Miami of Ohio, Ball State, Toledo, Ohio, Kent and Wyoming. Purdue, Northwestern and Illinois had expressed interest.
But they couldn't match what Indiana offered.
“I liked everything about it,” Griffith said. “I like the coaches, and players and the atmosphere around it. Coach Wilson said he wants players who are going to compete and win games. That's the biggest thing with me. I think they're going to build something special. That's what stuck out to me the most.”
Homestead coach Chad Zolman said the Hoosiers are getting a player with a huge upside.
“Physically, he's gifted,” Zolman said. “He has tremendous speed. His agility — he's quicker laterally than anybody we've ever had at Homestead. His athleticism stands out. His work ethic stands out. He has a determination to make himself better. He's a motivated athlete.”
Growing up a coach's son, Zolman said, has accelerated Griffith's development.
“He's grown up around the sport. Anytime you have a coach's son, they're savvy. They understand the game.”
Homestead hopes to make a state title run next season. Don't be surprised it that means an expanded role for Griffith that includes defensive back and, yes, some quarterback.
“He'll be one of the leaders of this team,” Zolman said. “He won't do it by himself, but he's had three years of starting experience. The expectations for him have gone up.”
Added Griffith: “I can't wait to play with this Homestead team one last time, possibly win a state championship, and then head off to Bloomington.”
The Fort Wayne connection runs deep at Indiana, especially at wide receiver. James Hardy, a former Elmhurst standout, is IU's career leader in receptions (191), touchdown catches (36) and receiving yards (2,740). Damarlo Belcher, a former North Side player, also is among the Hoosiers' career leaders in receptions and yards. Dre Muhammad, who starred at Harding, emerged as a solid contributor last season.
“I trained with Dre and Damarlo at AWP Sports (in Fort Wayne),” Griffith said. “They told me what was going on down (at IU). What it was like. That made it that much easier. They always had good things to say. They never said anything bad.
“To see kids from Fort Wayne on a national level was cool. It made it that much easier to pick IU. I know they will take care of me as a person and a player.”
Wilson can't comment until Griffith signs a national letter of intent. But he has talked about the importance of Fort Wayne in the Hoosiers' recruiting plans.
Indiana has two Fort Wayne players on its roster in defensive backs Kenny Mullen and Lawrence Barnett, both from Bishop Luers.
“There are some good players in this region,” Wilson said during last month's IU Tailgate Tour stop in Fort Wayne. “We have a couple on our team. They're tough. They're winners. We need more of those guys.”
Griffith has 13 months to improve his size and strength. He said he plans to make the most of it.
“The college game will be that much quicker than high school. You have to adjust to that. You have to keep training and working hard.
“I won't settle for just getting a scholarship. I want to be an All-Big Ten guy. I want to be able to do the things Damarlo did or Dre did, or what Dre is trying to do, which is get to the NFL. I'll keep working so I'm prepared for what they have and what they expect from me for four years.”