Garrett Griffin still isn’t quite sure what colors he’ll be representing two months from now.
It could be the black and gold.
Or it could be the red, white and blue.
Either way, one thing is for certain for the Saints’ rookie tight end.
“Wherever I’m at, I’m going to try my hardest,” Griffin said.
Griffin graduated from the Air Force Academy just last week.
Now he’s on a 60-day leave from the military, trying to make the Saints roster as an undrafted free agent.
But he may have to fulfill a two-year military obligation.
The status of that obligation is unknown.
“I’m not 100 percent sure,” he said Thursday. “Even if I was (sure), I don’t know if I’m allowed to say. Once I hear the final decision, then I’ll do whatever they tell me to do. Whatever I can do to help the Air Force and pursue my dreams.”
For now, that dream is playing in the NFL.
He’s busy playing catch-up after arriving late because of graduation.
The 6-foot-4, 240 pound Griffin is one of seven tight ends listed on the Saints roster. He’s also one of two long snappers, a position he started doing in high school in Kansas, playing for his dad. He continued long snapping in college, serving as the back-up on road games.
“Going to pro day it was a good skill to have, especially if you were a guy who was on the borderline,” he said. “I just kept working on it and had it my back pocket just in case.”
He still takes about 15 minutes after each practice to work on it.
But he knows if he wants to be a Saint, he needs to prove himself as a tight end.
“It comes down to if you can play your actual position or not,” he said. “That’s my main focus.”
Griffin, a former running back and linebacker in high school, caught 41 passes for 678 yards and eight touchdowns at Air Force. He could have caught more but missed the first six games of his senior season after suffering a knee injury during warm-ups before the season opener. And perhaps he could have caught even more than that if he had played elsewhere.
Air Force isn’t known for its aerial attack, but Griffin said it helped that coach Troy Calhoun once served as offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans. They threw it a tad bit more than the other service academies.
“I knew going into it I wasn’t going to have that many catches, but I was all right with that,” he said. “I enjoy blocking. Just whatever I need to do to help.”
And in the very near future, that could be anything from blocking for Mark Ingram to hauling in passes from Drew Brees to helping provide maintenance on airplanes for his country.
The unknown of what’s next for him doesn’t seem to bother him one bit. He has solicited advice from other former Air Force players, including Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Ben Garland and ex-NFL receiver Chad Hall, both who fulfilled military obligations.
“They’ve told me some good things to help me out if I have to serve two years,” he said. “It keeps me positive when I’m training.”
Sean Payton is optimistic.
“If a player like him has an opportunity, they are going to work with him,” Payton said. “Twenty years ago it was a little bit different.”
And there has been some promising recent precedent. In May, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus gave Naval Academy grad Keenan Reynolds permission to play with the Baltimore Ravens and fulfill his military requirements in the Navy Reserves.
Will Griffin get that same benefit and work for coach Sean? Or will he be working for Uncle Sam?
He doesn’t know.
And right now, he isn’t worried about that.
“I’m doing football full-time right now,” he said.