Griffith already among UCLA’s top kickers
He’s a 6-2, 210-pounder, who bench presses 295 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.8 seconds and has a vertical leap of 31 inches.
Even placekickers are bigger, stronger and faster these days and among the biggest, strongest and fastest is Douglas High graduate Chris Griffith.
Those were some of the personal bests that Griffith posted heading into fall camp with the UCLA football team. Griffith has already placed his name among the top all-time kickers in UCLA’s record book — which is saying something since the school has an illustrious history at the position.
And Griffith, a fifth-year senior, has set the loftiest goal possible for his final season. “My goal is not to miss,” he said.
Griffith has made 34 of 45 field goals in his career at UCLA since taking over as the starting kicker as a redshirt freshman. He’s fourth on UCLA’s all-time field goal list, passing Chris Sailer at the end of last season.
His career 75.6 field goal percentage ranks third in school history behind John Lee (85.0) and Alfredo Velasco (78.5). He ranks eighth overall and fifth among kickers in career scoring with 212 points.
Last year, he made a career long 49-yard field goal and all 41 of his PAT attempts in being named to the all-Pac 10 honorable mention team by the Pac 10 coaches. Griffith was also a first team all-Pac 10 choice by collegefootballnews.com.
“I was happy with what I did,” said Griffith about the personal bests he set in his training. “I trained all summer.
“It’s the same routine I’ve done every year. I wanted to come in big and strong. I’d like to be 215, but 210 is good enough.”
Griffith said he normally loses 10 pounds by the end of the season and would like to still be at 200 pounds at the end of the year. He said he should be able to maintain that weight at the end of the season.
“My biggest weakness was my strength,” Griffith said. “My accuracy is my weapon. I’m very accurate.”
Griffith was 10-of-13 in field goals last year, with two of his misses coming from 49 and 50 yards. One of those misses was a bitter pill to swallow — a 50-yarder on the game’s final play in a 21-20 loss to Oregon at the Rose Bowl.
Griffith had to try the field goal from the right hash mark, a most difficult angle from that distance. But Griffith wouldn’t use that as an excuse.
“You can’t ask for that,” said Griffith about having the ball in the middle of the field. “If the same thing happens this year, I’d be there again and hopefully I’ll make it.”
Griffith’s other two misses came against Ohio State, which left him personally disappointed, he said. But his teammates helped him keep the game in perspective – after all, UCLA won 13-7 and Griffith did make two field goals.
UCLA got off to a 6-0 start and was ranked No. 2 in the BCS rankings. But then the Bruins lost four straight games.
The Bruins also haven’t beaten rival USC in the three years that Griffith has been their kicker.
“I don’t like ‘SC, but not because they’re ‘SC,” said Griffith, explaining that he understands the importance of the rivalry, but that every Pac 10 game is just as significant to him.
“I want to beat ‘SC bad. Obviously, I definitely want to beat ‘SC. But I want to beat every Pac 10 team just as bad and I think we have the opportunity to.”
Losing superstars such as running back DeShaun Foster has actually made the team more cohesive, Griffith said.
“It’s been a great camp,” Griffith said. “Our team is really strong. We’ve got a great group of guys.”
In the five years he’s been at UCLA, Griffith said, “This is probably the most productive camp we’ve had so far.”
Griffith couldn’t have been blamed if he heard footsteps when UCLA recruited one of the nation’s most heralded high school kickers in California’s Chris Kluwe two years ago. But in a testament to Griffith, Kluwe is now being groomed strictly to take over as UCLA’s punter for Nate Fikse, who’s an All-American candidate himself.
UCLA will be tested in its opener when it hosts Colorado State on Sept. 7 at the Rose Bowl. Colorado State was impressive in a 35-29 win over Virginia in its opener.
Griffith said the “ultimate dream” would be to make the game-winning field goal in the national title game.
Actually, another dream for Griffith has become a realistic goal: Kicking in the NFL. “I’m definitely going to give it the best shot I can,” he said.
Griffith noted he went from being a walk-on at UCLA to the starting kicker. “I kind of fought my way out of a corner and produced,” he said.