It still bothers former Connecticut tight end Ryan Griffin that he wasn’t invited to the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis. He felt snubbed – and rightfully so. It was an opportunity to prove himself that he could never get back.
Turns out, Griffin didn’t need that opportunity. He set out on his own mission to demonstrate he was worthy of being drafted by an NFL team. Griffin needed only one team to believe in him.
And that team turned out to be the Houston Texans. Saturday, the Texans drafted the 6-foot-6, 247-pound tight end with the 33rd pick in the round six. That made Griffin the 201st player taken in the 2013 draft. It also set a UConn school record as Griffin became the fifth Husky player taken in one draft.
Griffin was more than enthused about being drafted and called Houston “a great fit.” But he had to get the feeling of being snubbed off his chest.
“I was extremely frustrated,” Griffin said. “The combine is a place where you can go and, you don’t earn anything there, you just have a spot and you get to show teams what you can do. When that got taken away from me, I felt like things were conspiring against me at that point.
“I just used that as motivation and put it in the bank and just focused on my pro day. I kept that in the back of my mind, obviously. . . . There were some guys [at the combine] who didn’t get drafted today. What can you say about it? It’s part of the process.”
Instead of dwelling on the negativity of it all, Griffin channeled his energy, trained as hard as he could and became determined to do his best at UConn’s Pro Day on March 27. In front of scouts from 29 NFL teams, Griffin turned in 21 reps on the bench press and a 34 ½-inch vertical jump.
Then he set out on a road trip to meet with teams and let them gauge his character.
“I wanted to be around the coaches, off the field, and show them what kind of character guy I am,” said Griffin, who was UConn’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2012 after catching 29 passes for six touchdowns and 484 yards. “I think that really helped my case out to let teams know I will help the football team, on and off the field.”
Griffin made stops in Kansas City, Buffalo, Green Bay and Houston. And everything about the Texans felt right to him.
“It just clicked and I think that trip [to Houston] is where I felt the most at home,” Griffin said. “When I saw that they were calling me right before they were picking, I kind of had a good feeling about it.”
Griffin waited a long time to hear his name called but that is offset by the fact he is headed to a playoff team with a bright future. The Texans seem solid at tight end with Owen Daniels secure in the starting spot and Garrett Graham behind him – and on the rise. More than likely, Griffin will have to beat out undrafted rookies Jake Byrne and Phillip Supernaw for the third spot on the active roster.
Easing the transition to the NFL for Griffin will be the presence of at least one UConn teammate. The Texans drafted UConn defensive end Trevardo Williams in the fourth round earlier Saturday. It’s the first time in UConn history that one team drafted two Huskies in the same draft.
And later Saturday night, UConn wide receiver Michael Smith, who is from Houston tweeted this on his Twitter account: “I’m home grown…so I’m staying home…#HoustonTexans #veryblessed” That would seem to indicate Smith has signed as an undrafted free agent.
UConn wide receiver and kick returner Nick Williams also tweeted "Washington Redskins!!!" So as of 11 p.m. Saturday night it seems at least two UConn players have agreed to deals as undrafted free agents.
It will be a very interesting training camp in Houston, one that UConn fans will watch closely. After a lot of hard work, the Texans have given these former Huskies a chance to realize their dream.
"I haven't done anything yet," Griffin said. "I haven't put on shoulder pads so I can't say that I am just going to walk in and take a spot. I have to earn everything that I am going to get but I am ready to do that. I know they have a great tight end over there with OD and Garrett and I am ready to contribute to the team any way I can whether it is going to be as a third tight end or whatever they have me doing, I am going to give it my best effort."