Monday, July 13, 2020
July 13, 2020

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Totally Green Receiver: Zyell Griffin shines at Evergreen

Second-year receiver shows off skills, pride for his school

By , Columbian staff writer
2 Photos
Despite prodding from friends at other schools, senior standout Zyell Griffin says he never considered leaving Evergreen for another high school.
Despite prodding from friends at other schools, senior standout Zyell Griffin says he never considered leaving Evergreen for another high school. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

It is true, Zyell Griffin says, even though it may sound crazy hearing him say it.

But the Evergreen High School senior is being 100 percent honest when he says he didn’t know he could be a good receiver.

That, in part, is because, “I never thought about being a receiver,” he said.

Crazy, right, because Griffin, as a two-time all-league player who starts both ways, is a return specialist and also punts for the Plainsmen, wasn’t a receiver until last season.

Untapped potential is what first-year head coach Christian Swain sees in a player he calls a rough diamond — a rough diamond who has two, 99-yard touchdowns this season.

Most players don’t have that in a career. Griffin has that in two of Evergreen’s first three games — first on a 99-yard catch-and-run against Heritage, then in last week’s loss to Lakewood, grabbed a deflected ball at the 1-yard line off a blocked field goal and ran it back 99 yards for the score.

The Plainsmen look to even their record to 2-2 overall traveling to 2A Rochester, out of south Thurston County, at 7 p.m. Friday.

It’s hard to argue against Griffin as one of Clark County’s most dynamic playmakers. A 6-foot-2, 195-pound newbie receiver and free safety usually disappears downfield then reappears in the end zone. Through three games, he’s the area’s leading receiver (366 yards) and has seven total touchdowns. Five of those are touchdown passes thrown by first-year high school quarterback Carter Monda.

Newbie receiver, though, because Griffin never caught passes until junior year. Yet now, his head coach said Griffin reminds him of one NFL player. How Griffin got to this stage of his high school career didn’t come overnight, but becoming a receiver practically did.

Griffin grew up shining in the backfield on offense. That rang true his first two years at Evergreen, blossomed into his current frame, catching passes instead of receiving handoffs better suited Evergreen’s offense.

Swain calls Griffin the most gifted athlete in terms of raw ability he’s coached in 20 years coaching high school football.

Griffin also reminds Swain of Kendrick Bourne, a current San Francisco 49ers receiver and ex-Eastern Washington player, in a lot of ways from how he stretches the field to athleticism to position flexibility.

Then there’s when he has the ball.

“It doesn’t matter how he gets the ball in his hands,” Swain said of Griffin, “he’s electric.”

That’s evident, especially in Griffin’s two, 99-yard touchdowns. Swain said Evergreen can’t afford not to have Griffin on the field. He starts at receiver, free safety, returns punts and also is Evergreen’s punter.

That’s all fine with Griffin because he looks at the bigger picture.

“I think it’s fun,” he said. “It’s more fun because you only get your high school experience for four years. Getting the most out of it is the best part of it.”

For Griffin, it’s nothing more than wanting to find ways to stand out and be different. From open to learning new positions — he’s played running back, receiver, cornerback, safety, as well as multiple specialists– to also being an anomaly by staying put at the school he calls home.

In an era of high school transferring for athletic gains, Griffin hasn’t wavered in loyalty. He’s true to Evergreen, he said, and when recruiting pitches come from friends at other schools, he repeats the same answer.

“I’m true to my colors,” he said. “I’ve been here, and there’s no point in transferring.

“I like being different. I can stand out here and do my own thing.”

He’s done his own thing since freshman year not only in football, but basketball, too. Griffin played offense and special teams on Evergreen’s last playoff-bound team in 2016, and is poised to help lead the Plainsmen back to the playoffs.

This time, shining in a new position.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he said, “but we can do it for sure.”