How faith saved Jordan Griffin's UK football career

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Kentucky Wildcats safety Jordan Griffin (3) high fives his teammates during the UK vs Toledo football game on Saturday, August 31, 2019 at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 38-24. Photo by Victoria Rogers | Staff

Faith is Kentucky Football safety Jordan Griffin’s lifeline.

But just over a year ago, that lifeline was in jeopardy and so was Griffin’s desire to play football.

“At one point, I just felt like I was in a hole,” Griffin said. "I haven’t talked about this story much, but now that I’ve found peace and my joy for the game, I’m much more comfortable talking about it.”

It’s a story that, up until now, only Griffin’s closest family, friends and teammates knew about—a story that might surprise those who think they know Griffin just from watching him play football. But to understand his story, it’s important to first understand Griffin’s upbringing.

That lifeline of faith was established by Griffin’s parents, Judy and Lawrence Griffin, who raised Jordan as a southern Baptist in Jonesboro, Georgia – a small town south of Atlanta. Judy said that faith naturally came to the Griffins.

“We were always taught to have faith and pray, and things would be ok for you. We instilled values like praying, loving and believing,” Judy said. “We let our kids figure out things on their own before we dived into religion. But for some reason, Jordan’s just different. You know, very analytical. His mind was older than some of the kids he hung around,”

After a quiet freshman year at UK, Jordan made his “analytical” presence known as a sophomore after playing in all of UK’s 13 games and finishing the year with 22 tackles, three pass breakups and an interception. His junior campaign started off on a similar foot until last year’s game against Mississippi State.

Kentucky Football vs the University of Florida

Kentucky cornerback Jordan Griffin defends a pass during the game against the University of Florida on Saturday, September 23, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky was defeated 28-27. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

After an injury leading into the game, Judy said Jordan was “banged up and went cold turkey” for the rest of the 2018 season. She says he started questioning himself and his future. As a stock trader off the field with an interest in real estate, he said he knew football wasn’t forever.

“I felt like, things weren’t falling apart, but things were growing in other parts of my life. With football not going the way I wanted, and stock trading going the way I wanted, I questioned God and wondered if, ‘Is this what he wants me to do, go on a route different from football,’” Griffin said.

Griffin spent the next year trying to rediscover himself and his passion for the game. He admits that his faith wasn’t as strong as before. He turned to family, current and past teammates and religious role models for guidance, including UK Fellowship of Christian Athletes chaplain Aaron Hogue and his former high school teammate turned preacher candidate, Kali James.

“I’d be lying if I said I was consistent with my prayer and what I was supposed to do,” Griffin said. “There are times where the close people around see things that you don’t see. With me being analytical, I tend to overthink.”

Linebacker Josh Paschal, who missed most of last season battling melanoma, is Jordan’s Bible study partner and attends FCA meetings with him. Paschal shared his trials and tribulations with Jordan, hoping that it would inspire him to remain steadfast with his faith.

“He was struggling with the game. He was struggling with his faith. We talked about staying strong and having faith and trusting God’s plan,” Paschal said. “Everyone has that one point where you question that faith. You need to keep that faith up when you face trials and tribulations.”

Griffin said being a part of Paschal’s life is “amazing,” adding that Paschal “pushes” him to become a better person. This July, though, Jordan reached a turning point. After safety Davonte Robinson had a season-ending quadricep injury, Griffin was saddened, but eventually enlightened.

“I was there when Davonte got hurt,” Griffin said. “I was one of the first people to hear about his season ending. I was shaken and it hurt a lot. I was shaky about playing football, but Davonte told me, ‘I need you.’ Those words pushed me.”

Several days after Robinson’s injury, Griffin said he had a moment of reckoning with God.

“I got on my knees one night and asked God to give me the strength and ability to no longer lie to myself and to show me the way he wants me to go,” Griffin said. “That moment really touched me. I think part of it was just losing faith when things weren’t going my way and not trusting the process. I was losing my faith with Christ.”

Now, Griffin is the unquestioned leader of the Cats’ secondary. He plans to graduate in December with a degree in community and leadership development. He’s made the SEC Academic Honor Roll every year he’s been in college, and he’s also a member of UK Football’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

“The thing about Jordan is that people have always looked up to him. I don’t know why, but he’s just always been special,”Lawrence Griffin said. “Derrick Baity, Chris Westry, Lonnie Johnson, Mike Edwards, all those guys looked up to him.”

With the sun setting on his college career, Jordan can now look back on leaving a legacy like his recently departed secondary counterparts. When asked about how he would sum up his recent experience, he had a simple response.

“That’s been my biggest testament in college so far,” Griffin said.