Kyle Griffitts, a former star on the West Orange football team, recently joined the team at BYU as a preferred walk-on after a two-year mission trip to Argentina.
They call themselves “The Energy Bunch.”
They are the redshirt players for the football team at Brigham Young University — more popularly known as BYU. They do not suit up for games, but they are a part of the team and get to be on the sideline, where they (vigorously) cheer on their teammates and help get the crowd pumped up.
Among them dating back to Oct. 12 is Kyle Griffitts, a West Orange High alum who officially joined the team as a preferred walk-on that day. For Griffitts, a star for the Warriors as a varsity tight end, fullback and linebacker, simply being on the sideline as a part of the team — in some capacity — is enough for now.
“It really was a dream come true. It’s like ‘I’m on the sideline for a BYU football game — and I’m a part of them,’” Griffitts said.
There is more to it than just the traditional “Rudy”-esque story, though. Griffitts is 21 years old now, more than two years removed from his high-school graduation in the spring of 2014. Instead of going directly into college to start his college career, Griffitts — who had several scholarship offers from Division I programs coming out of high school — chose to do a two-year mission trip mandated by his Mormon faith beforehand.
His brother, Hayden, a star quarterback for West Orange who also intends to play football for BYU, did the same — though Hayden’s mission trip started later, in February 2015, after the football program asked him to redshirt that season in case of an injury to its starting quarterback.
And so, instead of preparing for fall camp as a freshman recruit for the Cougars, Griffitts instead was on a plane — and later a bus — to the Patagonia, a sparsely-populated region located at the southern end of Argentina.
“I asked him (our mission coordinator) not to send me anywhere too cold — because I’m not very good with the cold — so he sent me to the coldest place ever,” Griffitts said with a laugh. “I’m a Florida boy.”
Griffitts got used to the cold out of necessity. Each day, he spent 10 to 11 hours outside working to help the people of the various villages. Although the main objective was to bring as many people to Christ as possible, Griffitts and other missionaries were also tasked with serving the people and helping in anyway they could.
It was grueling work at times — not that Griffitts minded. In particular, the longtime Floridian said he would marvel at the people’s kindness.
“The people down there are so humble,” Griffitts said. “You go in there, and they would give you everything they had. They were so kind and loving — they were Christ-like in that sense. They didn’t complain — they just loved and were kind.”
Griffitts said he stayed with one family, in particular, for a long period of time and got to know them well. When he arrived, the family had been having issues and the parents were even considering divorce. Through talking things out and being open to the teachings of the Bible, Griffitts said the family got through the dark period and is now doing very well.
“It was cool to see the change in them,” Griffitts said. “It’s exciting to see that change when people allow Christ in their life.”
After two years, though, it was time to return to America — and to football. And although the work Griffitts would do each day was often grueling, it also was not the kind of thing that kept his body in shape at a level necessary to play college football. So, when he returned to Provo, Utah, over the summer, the race was on to get back into game shape.
“It was brutal,” he said. “I was serving in the Andes mountains for the last two months. … I couldn’t get outside and run. The entire mission, I was doing push-ups and sit-ups. I’d lift rocks and do stuff like that. … (When) I got back, I was so out of shape.”
To offset that, Griffitts paired up with a local trainer in Provo. The time spent with the trainer was largely successful, with one caveat: Griffitts tore his hamstring. Because it came in training outside of the team, it was not something BYU could help with. So, Griffitts was on his own to rehab, and his odds of joining the team as a preferred walk-on this fall were greatly diminished.
Undeterred, Griffitts pushed on and returned from his injury three weeks earlier than expected — something he calls “a miracle.”
Given a tryout of sorts to join the team this fall, Griffitts made the most of it. The coaches let him know Oct. 12 that he was officially a part of the BYU football team, and he was given No. 42, his old number from high school. As a preferred walk-on who is redshirting, he will not play this fall and is largely used on the scout team in practice — but the drive to make the team was bigger than simply when and if he would see the field.
“Since I was a little, little kid … my first photo taken of me and my brother was us wearing BYU gear with a football next to us,” Griffitts said. “My dad played football here, and this is where my parents met. My No. 1 dream in life has been to play football for BYU.”
The road forward
Griffitts said his time on the scout team has gone well, and he enjoys helping his teammates prepare for their opponent each week. Starting with the spring season, he will begin competing in earnest to move up the team’s depth chart — although he will do so with new perspective, thanks to his mission work.
“I realized that football really isn’t everything,” Griffitts said. “As much as I really love football and it’s my passion, there’s more to me than football. … I realized how much more important God is — and his plan for me — than a game.”
And, whenever he takes the field, Griffitts said he tries to remember how fortunate he is and that he has fans rooting for him all over the world.
“Not everybody has a chance to live out their dreams,” Griffitts said. “So I’m going to do everything for it.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].