April 1, 2013

Griffey ready to seize opportunity at Arizona

Trey Griffey understood his role on the Arizona football team last season, but there were still times it was hard coming to grips with his place on the scout team.

Like any incoming freshman, the 6-3 receiver wanted to prove he could play right away. But the coaching staff had other plans, and because of a deep receiver corps Griffey was redshirted in 2012. So, practice days became his game days.

Griffey said the veterans on the roster helped with the transition.

"I was struggling the first couple of weeks with being on the scout team. 'Dang, you know, this really sucks,'" Griffey told GOAZCATS.com. "But talking to (fellow receivers) Dan Buckner, Terrence Miller - even talking to (quarterback) Matt Scott - just saying, 'What do I do? How do I adjust to this?' They were just like, 'Calm down, it's your first year, freshman year. But once you get back in spring, the redshirt is over. It's time to work hard.'"

And that's been the message to all of the redshirt freshmen, head coach Rich Rodriguez said. With Buckner, a senior last season, now preparing for the NFL draft, at least one spot in the rotation will have a new face.

The season on the sidelines allowed the redshirt freshmen to learn the system and adapt to the mental aspects. It also gave Griffey time to fill out, physically. Listed at 187 pounds last season, the Orlando, Fla., product is now at a more lean 190.

"In football, you can't be the smallest person," Griffey said. "You end up getting hit and it's going to hurt. So the bigger you get, the better."

Rodriguez said Griffey put in his time in the weight room, "and then mentally he's a lot more comfortable" in his first spring camp.

"He's still going to make mistakes this spring," Rodriguez added. "But if we can get those corrected and get him through the August camp, I think he's going to have a chance to help us quite a bit this year.

"He's made great increases in his strength, which to me reflects his work ethic. He's got good work ethic and that's something we all have to have."

There is little surprise, if any, as to where Griffey gets his work ethic - an attribute teammates and coaches noticed immediately last year. If the last name did not already give it away, Trey Griffey is the son of future baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., who spent 22 years smacking and robbing home runs in the major leagues.

The Griffey family has attended a handful of spring practices in the past week. The Griffeys also made the trek to Phoenix for the team's scrimmage last Friday.

Like his own father, Ken Sr. - another former baseball star - told him at an early age, Griffey Jr.'s advice to all of his children is to focus solely on the variables within their control.

"Someone is always going to be bigger, someone is always going to be stronger, someone is always going to be faster," Griffey Jr., told GOAZCATS.com before the scrimmage. "The only thing (you can control) is they can't outwork you. That's the one thing I instill in my kids. Effort is the main thing, you can control that. You can't control the score of the game, you can't control what your coach does, but you can control what you do - and people see that."

Patience and trust in the coaching staff was the other piece of advice.

Griffey Jr., pointed out how even star running back Barry Sanders had to play behind Thurman Thomas before shining as a junior at Oklahoma State.

"Unless you're a freak athlete, you're going to wait your turn and there's nothing wrong with it," Griffey Jr. said.

Trey Griffey eventually found the reward in working with the scout team. The Wildcats won eight games in 2012, including the New Mexico Bowl against Nevada last December.

If he could not help his team on Saturdays, Trey Griffey was going to make sure he made an impact every other day of the week behind the scenes.

"Everybody has a part on the team," he said. "It was tough the first couple of weeks, but once we got through it we saw that we started to win and it came off of the practice tempo or how the scout team did. So it felt pretty good."

The focus now turns to earning a spot with a group that includes Miller, All-Pac-12 Conference standout Austin Hill and five others who received playing time last season.

Rodriguez has said throughout the spring that he may not have a depth chart until a few weeks into fall camp.

So, the approach every practice in his son's season cannot change, Griffey Jr. said, and every moment must be treated like an "audition."

In a way, the competition has to be treated like a high school athlete seeking the attention of colleges around the country, he said.

"This is not just a one-day thing," Griffey Jr. said. "You're in an audition every night.

"Just because you're playing for a team in the pros, you're still on an audition because if this team doesn't want you, you have to be able to go somewhere else. Every night you have to go out there and play."

Like his head coach, Trey Griffey sees a window of opportunity instead of a set group of experienced starters. But whenever that time comes, simply winning a job will not be enough.

The hunger within the rest of the position group - and a look at the scout team - will be the only necessary reminder to continue working.

"If you get that (starting) spot, you can't let anybody take that spot from you," Trey Griffey said. "You've got to work hard every single day. Your spot is not guaranteed."

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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