U.S. Army veteran Joshua Griffin trained with Rangers and Green Berets and saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan during his 13 years of military service. Then he decided to become an officer, join ROTC, and play college football.
The Staff Sergeant is now the oldest player in the country on a major college football team.
The 33-year-old walk-on is in his second season at Colorado State University and he credits his military service with much of his success.
Tom Ehlers, CSU's director of football ops, was impressed with Griffin from the start.
First of all, Griffin cold-called Ehlers in person. At 5'10" and 208 lbs, Griffin certainly looked the part.
More than that, Ehlers quickly realized that "Griffin's military background could be useful on a young football team in need of leadership." The problem was that Griffin didn't have any footage of himself playing — or even the SAT or ACT scores needed to qualify for college attendance.
Still, he was persistent — another skill courtesy of the United States Army. He was finally invited to the walk-on tryouts.
The term walk-on is used to describe an athlete who earns a place on the team without being recruited or, in the case of college football, awarded an athletic scholarship.
Griffin drilled alone in the weeks before tryouts after watching the team practice.
"I would study what the coaches had them doing during individuals and then after practice I would go to these fields right here and I would do exactly what they would do," he told ESPN.
He was one of three who made the team.
Griffin was attached to the 10th Special Forces and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment while on active duty. His wartime experiences included 2½ years of service overseas — and he still carries unseen scars with him, including hypervigilance and trouble sleeping.
But he carries the brotherhood with him, too. The players, most of whom are a decade younger than Griffin, look up to him — a fact noticed by the coaching staff, who made him one of ten accountability leaders for the team.
"He's a great example of what soldiers are like out there," said Lt. Col. Troy Thomas, the professor of military science who runs CSU's Army ROTC program."…When you support people through their goals, it's amazing what they can accomplish. We've been able to support Josh while he gets an education and plays athletics. I suspect great things for him in the future."