Underdog Griffin Uhl Made Made The Most Of His Opportunity

Posted on Jun 29 2012 - 10:19am by Brent Lepping

Uhl at a community football game

 

Really, really nice piece from Michael Reschke of Sports Illustrated who takes an in-depth look at the unusual circumstances and recruitment of Louisville freshman Griffin Uhl. The 6-2, 265 Defensive Lineman from tiny Memphis, Indiana (population 695) never played a single snap of organized high school football yet was still able to secure a preferred walk-on spot at the University of Louisville. Through incredibly hard work, dedication and a mindset for success, Uhl played in a local community league and participated in lineman camps at regional colleges all while building a reputation as a fierce competitor and skilled player. Though his options were limited and most colleges stopped recruiting him, Louisville defensive line coach Clint Hurtt stayed in touch with him and his family and ultimately may have found a future star.

Growing up in Memphis, Ind. (pop. 695), Uhl never played high school football. His tiny school of Henryville High (enrollment: 490) didn’t have a program, and he gained most of his experience playing in a nearby community league, one that his parents helped run. Linda filmed the games, and Uhl’s father, Jeff, called players who didn’t show up. Griffin was forced to do things that most high schools players typically have done for them, from researching his own training methods to cooking his own meals.

Uhl dreamed of playing on Saturdays. But the odds were stacked staggeringly against him. According to the NCAA, of the 316,697 seniors that played high school football last year, just 6.1 percent will play at the next level.

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College scouts weren’t coming to Uhl’s community league games, so he had to seek them out. The summer after his sophomore year, Uhl and his mother traveled to a scouting camp at Ball State.

When Uhl arrived, he didn’t blend in with the other kids. He wasn’t with a team — he was all by himself. And then there was the issue of his equipment. He didn’t have a Riddell Revolution helmet like other prospects; the other kids described his helmet as an antique.

Uhl soon realized that he was at a disadvantage. To compete, he would have to vastly overcompensate.

Of course, Uhl was well aware of that fact going in. In addition to lacking a program, Henryville’s weight room was less than ideal (“The school weight room is basically a closet,” he said), so Uhl had to learn to lift on his own. He frequented the local YMCA and drove more than a half an hour down Interstate 65 to train, gradually teaching himself to add weight, condition and follow a college-level regimen.

He attended football camps at Louisville and the local-level National Underclassmen Combine. He was named defensive line MVP at the latter, and was invited to the Midwest Ultimate 100 Combine in Indianapolis. There, he went undefeated in one-on-one drills and was again labeled defensive line MVP. He was then invited to the Elite Top Prospect Camp in Norman, Okla.

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National Signing Day came and went, and more than a month later, Uhl still didn’t know where — or if — he was going play college football in the fall.

In fact, most of the schools that once expressed interest stopped contacting him altogether. Except Louisville.

Hipps played with Louisville’s defensive line coach, Clint Hurtt, during his career at Miami. Hipps told his former teammate about Uhl, but Hurtt already had his eyes on the under-the-radar prospect. Hurtt recognized Uhl’s potential during a Louisville camp the previous summer and continued to stay in touch with him.

Louisville couldn’t offer him an athletic scholarship — he didn’t play high school football, after all — but Hurtt was confident that if Uhl walked on, he would be able to earn one.

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  1. Guest June 29, 2012 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    He actually had preferred walk-on offers from over a half dozen Div I schools, but he wanted to play at Louisville. He's a Cardinal by choice.

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    • Guest August 9, 2012 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      He is also the most polite sincere humble and helpful young man you will EVER meet. Go Uhl!

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