“That’s his reputation, being a freak,” teammate Ahmad Dixon added with a chuckle, “on and off the field.”
So no one is surprised Griffin is suddenly on the NFL’s front doorstep, a unique talent who’s about to take the step for which he and his family have invested years of sweat and preparation.
“I could recall prophesying over him,” said Bishop Nathaniel Holcomb, pastor of the Christian House of Prayer Ministries, Griffin’s 5,000-member church. “I felt the Lord said that he would be a rising star. . . . There was just something unique about him.”
On a recent spring afternoon, the elder Griffin and his 22-year-old son stood on the side of the road just a few miles from their home, trying to explain the unique training exercise. The posted speed limit is 55 mph. Dogs were barking from the nearby animal shelter. Technically, this half-mile of angled asphalt is called N. First Street. They call it “Griffin Hill.”
“Believe it or not, this was a place of comfort with all the cars and the dogs,” Griffin said.
The two would come after midnight when the traffic was light, and a young Griffin ran up and down the hill. They’d come after football practice, tethering an SUV tire to the young man’s waist. They’d come every Thanksgiving, every weekend, every time Griffin needed a pick-me-up.
“I even had him run down it one time in college,” the elder Griffin said. “Remember that?”
His son chuckled.
“When you train, you got to have something you’re confident in. So this was something we were confident in,” said the quarterback, a chiseled 6 feet 2 and 223 pounds. “Didn’t matter what time of season it was. If I needed to get in shape, we came to Griffin Hill.”
His childhood was filled with training exercises — some typical, others unorthodox. The family bounced from base to base and Griffin from school to school before they settled into Copperas Cove, just west of Fort Hood. Both New Orleans natives, Robert Jr. was a petroleum supply specialist for the Army and Jacqueline a personnel specialist. Each was intimately involved in Griffin’s development as an athlete.
His father would train, coach and study. Griffin didn’t learn to drive until he was a freshman in college, and it was his mother who took him to school, practices and games.
“My dad was tough, pushed me, always looking for ways to make me better,” Griffin said. “My mom was caring. That’s why I say I got all my emotions from my mom.”
Griffin didn’t play football until he was 12 and didn’t run track until he was 11. He was already a standout basketball player by that point. He told his father he wanted to be like NBA legend Michael Jordan, so the two would hit the courts every day. Everyone in the family still recalls the drill in which a right-handed 8-year-old Griffin had to run from goal to goal, shooting 120 left-hand layups.