The QB most likely to succeed

Chase Griffin

ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Chase Griffin is a 13-year-old prodigy in every sense of the word. He's a 99th-percentile test-taker and chamber orchestra violinist who's already plotting to one day run a water purification startup, then maybe run for president.

But he'd rather be a quarterback. The eighth-grader's passion for passing has become a blossoming fascination in the past two years. Luckily for Griffin, he has friends in high places ensuring he maximizes his on-field potential.

As he says on his Twitter bio, he's your favorite quarterback's favorite quarterback. In fact, more than 45 college and NFL QBs follow Griffin on Twitter.

This week, Griffin resumes his prized duties as official ball boy at the Elite 11 finals in Oregon. The boy wonder is known there for his love of running at all times -- out to drills, when laying out cones and hanging banners, even when delivering coffee -- and his readiness to speak up in meetings and film sessions full of future college QBs. He got the gig in 2012 and just keeps coming back.

"It definitely gives you a great head start," Griffin said.

Griffin has been called gifted, advanced and precocious, but that's easy to see. It's his dedication to the craft that he hopes will set him apart someday.

He has already trained or worked with QB guru George Whitfield more than a dozen times. Ask what's wrong with his game, and Griffin gets right to the nuts and bolts of how he's carrying his elbow too high on drops and must "keep it dry." He's trying to drive more power from his whole body on throws. He mentions he recently learned how to dissect the Cover 6 defense.

You won't find many kids his age who say their summer goals include learning offensive line protections.

"I can tell you, from the neck up, he's on what I would call an accelerated program," Whitfield said. "He is really getting a chance to understand the office of the quarterback."

Griffin can describe in deep detail what he's learned from training with Johnny Manziel, Bryce Petty, Braxton Miller, Everett Golson, Logan Thomas, Connor Cook and so many other Whitfield protégés. Griffin is a sponge around them, and he is constantly asking questions and filling his notebook with their advice.

"It's always fun to have that little kid there because he's doing it for the fun," Petty said. "It reminds you what you started this for."

The only time Griffin was ever starstruck, his father, Will Griffin, said, came at last year's Elite 11. Aaron Rodgers asked him to fetch some sunscreen. When Griffin delivered -- and you better believe he ran -- he received a hug and a "You're the man" from the impressed Packer.

"Chase is like a human icebreaker," said Brian Stumpf, an Elite 11 camp director for Student Sports. "He gets the guys smiling and reminds them it's a boy's game."

Already among elite company

Griffin's competitiveness is unmistakable in summer camp settings. He sprints to every drill, is always first in line and cheats up in line whenever he can. When he gets home, Chase downloads the videos Will shoots on a camcorder and studies the tape. During the season, he puts in weekly work with the coach who first taught him to pass, former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake.

Griffin is not just any preteen. In March, he received a special invitation to Manziel's pro day in College Station from the quarterback himself.

"We're sitting and eating in the back room of this country club," Whitfield recalled, "and he says, 'Hey, what about Chase? I need him down here. Let's get him down here.' And this is on the eve of the biggest day of his life."

Manziel believes "C-Geezy" to be good luck. When he finished the last pass of his workout, he gave Griffin the cashing-out handshake on national TV as he left the field.

"It was amazing, surreal," Griffin said. "It might've been a span of three hours, but it felt like 20 minutes."

Griffin had joined Manziel and Mike Evans for their pre-draft training with Whitfield in San Diego. He's seen a kinder side of the mercurial Manziel that most won't understand, and Whitfield can tell the first-rounder straightens up when Griffin is in the room.

"Johnny doesn't really have a kid brother, per se," Whitfield said. "But I think if you asked him, he would probably say Chase is one of the closest candidates to it."

On this, Griffin refuses to brag to his classmates at Ridgeview Middle School in Round Rock. In fact, his fame didn't truly blow up until Feb. 1, when Manziel posted a picture with him online. Within six hours, Griffin had 2,000 new Instagram followers. He shrugs when asked if he understands how cool that is.

At the start of Chase's first three-day session with him in 2012, Whitfield made a vow: "I want to train him all the way up." He hasn't charged a dime for his instruction ever since. When Vince Young was training in Houston, Griffin came to help. He trained with Manziel in College Station this past summer before the Manning Camp, worked with Petty in the spring and Golson and Cook this summer, and he shows up to Elite 11 regional camps just to watch. Wherever and whenever he's needed, Griffin is there.

"It's expensive, but it's not a burden," Will Griffin said. "Look, it's priceless."

Football just part of future

Every dollar spent and every plane ticket to California have been worthwhile well beyond the fact that Chase is becoming a better passer.

"Now that he's shown such a huge interest, I need him to be around people who know football," his father said. "I'm not the guy. That's not my area. I want him around people who know what they're talking about and are good people.

He goes on: "It's Texas, man. You could have this interview with 10,000 dads."

This is a father trying to give his son as much as he can. It's a promise and a standard Will Griffin hold himself to after growing up in a one-parent home in Austin, Texas. He knew who his father was, but the man invested no time or energy in his son. Will is a dad of three today with his wife, Christine, and he'll never make his father's mistake.

This much is certain: Will is not the dad chasing his own unfulfilled dream vicariously through Chase. He quit football after ninth grade. His father-in-law, James Krause, played at Purdue in the late 1960s, but that's about it for family ties to the game.

"I didn't even want him to play football," Will Griffin said. "I wasn't part of that culture. It just wasn't my thing."

Christine, a middle school language teacher currently on maternity leave, graduated from Georgetown and got her master's at Columbia. Will graduated from Dartmouth and Harvard Law and is currently an entrepreneur. Previously, he worked as an analyst for Goldman Sachs and later as a media consultant in Los Angeles. He tries to schedule all his meetings for Monday or Friday so that he can devote as much of every other day as possible to his children.

Will Griffin's enthusiasm isn't limited to Chase's football potential. He gets just as excited when Chase describes his vision of pursuing marine biology, with a goal of developing a foam that can desalinate water. He and a buddy hope to turn the Gulf of Mexico into an aquifer.

"I want to find a more efficient way to clean salt water and purify it into drinking water, so that water can become more accessible to people who need it," Griffin said.

Dad is no less proud of Chase's dedication to orchestra, which began with Suzuki violin lessons at age 4. He's hesitant to reveal his son's recent SAT test score, but suffice it to say 2,400 is the goal next time.

"He's smarter than me," Whitfield said, "but I was a little nerd too."

First step on long road

Whitfield can't help but see himself in Griffin. That's one reason the famed QB trainer took an interest in the kid as an 11-year-old.

"I don't have kids, and he's too young to be a kid brother, but there's a lot of him in me," Whitfield said. "He's me in hyper-drive. If I were 11 or 12 or 13, Chase and I would be best friends -- without question. He'd be my absolute dude."

The 36-year-old coach calls him the most charismatic, polite young man he's ever met. Whitfield is proud that Griffin occasionally gets mistaken for his son in public. But he can't evaluate the boy's physical traits like his other passers because, for now, facts are facts.

Griffin is 5-foot-3½ and 125 pounds. He's praying for a growth spurt, and Will Griffin (who is 5-foot-11) says doctors are projecting 6 feet or 6-foot-1. Griffin is no physical specimen with rare genes.

So he sets his sights on the attainable. He idolizes Drew Brees -- a fellow Austin native -- and Russell Wilson just as much as he does Manziel, and he hopes he can follow in their footsteps as an undersized passing surgeon. He compensates by being smarter and sharper and by making sure nobody practices better.

"My goal is to be starting by sophomore year," he said. "If I do that, that means I've really got my skill-set up to a point where a coach thinks I can start as a 15-year-old in 6A Texas football. That's a goal that's very realistic if I keep working."

Having an impeccable resume won't make him QB No. 1 at Cedar Ridge High School next year, though, and his father knows that.

This is a results-driven game. Either you make plays, or you don't. The family's intense dedication to training and studying is all about giving Griffin the tools he'll need when he's older, taller and ready.

"He's killing it in the little stuff he can do," Will Griffin said. "But, in perspective, it's still not Friday night."

Dad's main goal is for Chase to get into an Ivy League school. A framed, crimson Harvard sign hangs behind his home office desk. Whitfield and his fellow Elite 11 coaches believe wholeheartedly in a larger ambition: "We all kid him about becoming the president of the United States."

Griffin is living out a rare opportunity. He's constantly surrounded by rising quarterbacks from all over the country. He gets to ride their roller coaster, to be a part of their moment. In time, it will be his turn.

Where will Chase Griffin be in five years? Whitfield, his peers and his pupils ponder this question all the time. An awful lot of famous folks will be watching closely and proudly.

"That's the most anticipated thing," Whitfield said. "What happens when his voice drops, and he's 6-foot-2? Is he going to leave football? What is he going to become? Everybody is excited to be on hand for that. There's no telling.

"I do know this: I will come out of football to go be his campaign adviser when it's time to make that run. I'm very serious."

Someday, perhaps, they'll all be riding Chase's coattails.

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