In a large way, Kee-Ayre Griffin started this football turnaround at Temple University.
After sending someone I did not know a congratulatory email for getting 28 highly-rated commits in his first month on the job, Al Golden shot back a reply.
“Thanks, Mike. It’s not over yet. We’re waiting on a guy from St. Peter’s who might be the best of the class. It’s between us, Maryland and Boston College. Wish us luck.
Griffin, who died last week, was that guy and Golden got him. Getting Griffin started a Golden run where he’d win a handful of recruiting battles with Power 5 schools every year.
That’s how you recruit at Temple University. You get mostly two stars that you “coach up” to four stars, but you reach up and grab a few four-stars–like Griffin–in every class. Temple certainly departed from the ingredients of that mix in the most recent class and we will not know if the resulting cake will be delicious or flat until four years down the line.
Griffin did not turn out to be the Mega Star back all of the scouting services had him being, but he was more than a serviceable running back who found his niche after being switched over to the defensive side of the ball.
Before that happened, he had a key fumble in an overtime loss at Navy that never should have happened and a young head coach who did not know any better threw him under the bus afterward. With 17 seconds left and on fourth down deep in your own territory against a triple option team with no time outs, you punt the ball, plain and simple.
That’s Coaching 101.
That’s how you recruit
at Temple University.
You get mostly two stars
that you “coach up” to
four stars, but you reach
and grab a few
In 2009, I was walking down the corridor of the fourth floor of the team hotel, the Renaissance Marriott, in Washington D.C. and saw Griffin, dressed in a Temple warmup, leaving about three hours before the Eagle Bank Bowl. Knowing the team had left a couple hours before, I said:
“Kee, what happened to you?”
“I got suspended.”
Not wanting to know what it was for, I just said:
“Sorry to hear that. We need you out there.”
After hopping on the D.C. Metro, the entire car broke out into a loud “Let’s Go Temple” rhythmic chant that lasted the entire ride to RFK Stadium. Thinking about the “regular” commuters hearing that, it was one of my proudest moments as a Temple fan. In the rear of the same car, I saw Griffin taking in the whole scene and smiling. Hell, I got pretty choked up watching this scene unfold.
In 2011, while playing for Steve Addazio, he had the most athletic interception I ever saw a Temple player make, diving by the sideline to intercept a Penn State pass. It would have won the game, but Mike Gerardi returned the favor three plays later and Penn State went on to win, 14-10. If not for that, Griffin’s play would have gone down with Sharif Finch’s interception as two game-changing plays in wins over Penn State, but it was not to be.
While he might have hung with the wrong crowd after Temple, the Kee-Ayre Griffin I knew was a good guy who loved the school and his teammates and made a huge impact at Temple. Two other teammates, Anthony Ferla and Adrian Robinson, also did not make it to their 30th birthday and that is the very definition of gone too soon. The arguments about Kee hanging with the wrong crowd should be for another day. He’s gone and his Temple family is grieving along with his blood relatives. The same can be said for Ferla and Robinson, who died under different circumstances.
All of them deserved to be remembered for the significant contributions they made to Temple.