Mountain Brook senior middle linebacker Clark Griffin has become adept at the game of hide and seek.
Since he’s not big by linebacking standards – Griffin’s only 5 feet, 9 inches and 190 pounds — he employs his crackerjack style of football to avoid blockers and bring down ball carriers.
“Against big linemen, I use my quickness and instincts to my advantage,” Griffin said. “I try to hide myself and show myself at the last minute.”
Spartans football coach Chris Yeager said that’s part of Griffin’s distinctiveness.
“He’s sort of unique,” Yeager said. “He’s a very cerebral player. He understands both sides of the ball, which could make him a good coach one day. He’s always ahead of the ball. He dissects plays and then runs to where the ball is.
“Everybody talks about his size, but it makes him hard to block because he’s hard to see. I’ve had coaches tell me they couldn’t block him because they couldn’t see him. I think his size is an advantage. He pops up out of nowhere.”
Not only does Griffin pop up out of nowhere, he delivers some pop.
“He tackles big,” Yeager said. “He’s only about 190 pounds, but he tackles about 230. He’s one of the surest tacklers we’ve ever had and pound for pound, he’s one of the best tacklers I’ve ever seen.”
This season Griffin, who has started since he was a sophomore, has surpassed 100 tackles for the third consecutive year. He had a 23-tackle game against Center Point early in the season and reached 100 tackles, with 11 tackles against Thompson two weeks ago.
He had 103 tackles, including 63 solo and six tackles for losses, heading into Mountain Brook’s homecoming game last Friday against Hoover.
In 2018, Griffin recorded 151 tackles and garnered Class 7A second-team All-State honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association.
“It’s very rare to have a player reach 100 tackles three straight years,” Yeager said. “Those numbers are some of the better ones we’ve ever had.”
Preparation and Instincts
Preparation plays a key role in Griffin’s tackling prowess.
“Before the ball is snapped, I know where it is going,” he said. “It’s a little of instinct and watching film. I feel I have good instincts and I watch a ton of film. I know every team’s formation. I study all week and then use what I’ve learned in the game.”
His teammates also are important.
“I’ve always been in the middle and my teammates have been able to turn plays back to me,” Griffin said. “To have three 100-tackle seasons is big for me and our team.”
Griffin was the Spartans’ only returning starter on defense this fall and had to become a vocal leader.
“He’s always been a player who had led by example, but to lead this season he had to find his voice,” Yeager said. “He has found his voice.”
Griffin knew he had to become more vocal if the Spartans’ defense was going to be playing well.
“At the beginning of the season, we had a lot of question marks,” Griffin said. “We didn’t know who would be starting. They were looking to me for leadership. As the season progressed, everybody has become more comfortable and become playmakers.
“I’m not a rah, rah guy; I don’t like to talk. But I’ve been more vocal, making sure that everyone knows what we’re doing.”
Following in the Footsteps
Griffin comes from a football family. His dad, Steven Griffin, uncle Chad Griffin and grandfather Ray Griffin all played college football at Harding University in Arkansas.
“I’ve been around football all my life,” Clark Griffin said. “I started playing competitive football when I was in the third grade.”
He has aspirations of playing college football, but he wants to finish his final high school season strong.
“I have some schools looking at me, but my focus is on the rest of the season,” he said.
The Spartans (7-2, 5-2 Class 7A, Region 3) close the regular season Friday at Gardendale (7-2). Mountain Brook was unbeaten before losing its past two games, falling 33-21 at Thompson and 34-10 to Hoover in region play.
The losses left the Spartans as the No. 3 seed in the region, meaning they will be on the road for their first-round playoff game next week at Florence (6-4). Even so, Griffin believes Mountain Brook will be a factor in the state playoffs.
“I feel like we can make a run,” Griffin said. “I think we can play with anybody. We just have to play hard week in and week out.”