July 12, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
– Anyone can thrive in good times. It’s making it through hard times that makes a champion.
Sedric Griffin laid out a pretty good blueprint for the latter during his four years on the Flats (2006 through 2009). Never giving up and constantly working to be the best to even in the face of the improbable has been a theme for the Blair, S.C., native.
It was before he arrived in Atlanta, drove him throughout his time at Georgia Tech as an outside linebacker and continues to motivate him today, as a husband to wife, Ashlyn, and father to young daughters Jordyn, 5, and Peyton, 1.
That that tenacity was part of his DNA became obvious early on, when, at age 13, he overcame a battle with subdural empyema.
“Unlike everyone else that has a sinus infection, and it usually drains into your throat, mine drained upward so it went into my cranium,” he explained, “It caused unbearable migraines.”
He underwent a craniotomy to drain the fluid and correct the problem but the symptoms, which included seizures, returned his freshman year. He went through what he called “trial and error” with different medications until he found the right combination and has been seizure-free ever since.
From that point, the only migraines associated with Griffin were the ones he gave opposing offenses.
While he also would have his freshman season interrupted by a broken leg and his junior year halted by a knee injury, he was always determined to battle back.
“I wasn’t going to let anything hold me down or derail what I wanted to accomplish at Georgia Tech,” he said. “The subdural empyema was almost life-threatening. So once I got past that, everything else seemed kind of miniscule. `Just get back into the weight room, and follow the trainer’s instructions and do what you’ve got to do to be the best.’ It got me down quite a few times, but once I got over the subdural empyema, a broken leg was nothing.”
He accomplished plenty. After playing on special teams as a freshman then coming off the bench to contribute as a sophomore, he started his final two seasons at outside linebacker. His best year came in 2009, when he finished third on the team with 73 tackles (42 solo), adding 4.0 tackles for loss, half a sack, three pass break-ups and a recovered fumble. He finished his career with 141 tackles (83 solo), 12 TFLs, 3.5 sacks and four passes defended.
The numbers proved Griffin could play on the college level, but the hardest part may have been the year before, simply proving to he belonged on the field to recently hired head coach Paul Johnson and his new defensive coordinator Dave Wommack.
It was a story with which he was well acquainted.
“I had to do it pretty much at every level,” said Griffin, who played at 5-11, 225 as a senior, with a laugh. “At high school, my size was always held against me but once again I showed I had the play-making ability to be a top-notch linebacker. I always had a chip on my shoulder so it felt great to get the opportunity to show him. The past regime saw it but I had to show [Johnson]. So it was very much satisfying.”
That sense of satisfaction in pleasing Johnson and Wommack only came after overcoming an uncharacteristic sense of complacency.
“One mistake, I guess, you get kind of satisfied. I worked my way up with Coach Tenuta. I felt, `Hey, this is my time. I’m a junior,'” he said. “Of course, you know what happened. They pretty much cleaned house, and when Coach Johnson came in I had to prove myself again. A lot of it, through my doing, I thought it was going to be given to me.
“So I buckled down. I learned the playbook from front to back. I made sure I was a well-conditioned athlete,” he continued. “I had to learn to do the small things. He said to do right. I followed that motto, `Do right,’ which led me to become a starter the last two years.”
Those two seasons, Griffin helped the Yellow Jackets go a combined 20-7, 12-4 in the ACC, and bring home their first ACC Championship, topping Clemson, 39-34 in the title game.
While the title has since been vacated, nothing can take away Griffin’s memories. He fondly recalls the underrated quality of his teams and their ability to overcome the lack of respect from prognosticators.
“It was a great ride. I had some great teammates to go along with,” he said. “I would tell people, `I got a chance to play with some of the best players ever and also some of the smartest.’ True geniuses, I always like to say in Darryl Richards and Sean Bedford. Jon Dwyer, someone that big and that fast, I always enjoyed going against him. I remember we had our battles in practices. One of the greatest athletes I ever saw, Morgan Burnett, was behind me. You can’t forget Derrick Morgan, who you could always count on to make the big play.”
Griffin saved his best for hometown Clemson.
Griffin was 3-0 against the Tigers those final two years, including that ACC Championship game. He had 11 tackles in the three games, including a team-high two tackles for loss and registering the team’s only sack in his homecoming on Oct. 18, 2008.
“Me being from South Carolina, I always had a chip on my shoulder going against Clemson,” said the former Fairfield Central High School star. “I felt, `Hey, I was good enough to play on that squad and they didn’t give me the opportunity. So this is my chance to score one against Clemson.”
Looking back, Griffin is grateful to Johnson for his stress of priorities, on the home front, especially during his senior year, when he was a student-athlete, a father, and husband to the love of his life, Ashlyn, who he met as freshman (she was a student at Georgia State), and to whom he is still happily married.
“Coach Johnson brought some stability, especially in the personal things,” he said. “I was able to handle all things while I had a daughter and was in college, I was able to get on the Dean’s List. He taught me to focus a little bit more. During the whole process I knew, `Hey, I have two people that depend on me,’ It helped me buckle down and focus during the season and focus on being a father and a great husband.”
He’s all that and, thanks to the Georgia Tech Scheller Alumni Career Services, will soon be part of the Waffle House Management Program. He previously worked for a year and a half at Western & Southern Financial Group.
But that’s down the road. For the rest of the summer, Griffin is happy staying at home being a dad.
“Right now I’m just enjoying the summer with my girls and that’s pretty much it. Enjoying family life,” he said. “My daughters are complete opposite of each other. One is a complete sweetheart the other one is a very busy body. You have to keep your eyes on her constantly. So it’s a different set of challenges but they bring the best out of me.”
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