AVONDALE, Ariz. – Don't call him The Buss. He's the Owl Express.
Everson Griffen, a 6-foot-4, 263-pound junior fullback/defensive end for Avondale (Ariz.) Agua Fria, is one of the top juniors in the nation and likely the top prospect in Arizona for the class of 2007. When you watch Griffen play fullback for the Owls, it's easy to see comparisons to Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis.
"Jerome Bettis is what people say I look like when I'm running the football," Griffen said. "He's big – like 260 or 270 – but I'm taller. I'm like 6-4, but he's my weight and our running styles are the same. I'm known as the Train out here, but I like the Owl Express. That has a good ring to it."
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Griffen has rung up some impressive stats on both sides of the football this season. As the focal point of Agua Fria's offense, he's rushed for 619 yards and eight touchdowns on 102 carries. He also has nine receptions for 140 yards and a 71-yard touchdown. He's also racked up 30 tackles, four sacks and two fumble recoveries on defense.
"Everson is the real deal," Agua Fria coach Kelly Epley said. "He's big, he's strong and he's fast. He will be an impact college player. He's a high-level Pac 10 guy. He moves so well for a guy his size."
He sure does.
Watching film on Griffen, it's evident that he has an extra gear and could easily project at defensive end. With his 4.65-second time in the 40-yard dash, a great frame and athletic ability, it could be scary to see what he's like coming off the edge on a pass rush.
"For college, I think I'm most likely going to play d-end," Griffen said. "Then if they want me to play a little fullback, too, I'll do that. It doesn't matter really. I just want to get a shot at playing big time college football."
Not bad for a kid that just started playing organized football as a freshman.
Griffen said he was always too big to play Pop Warner football, and when he arrived at Agua Fria he wanted to desperately get involved in football so he can finally show people he is a good athlete.
"I played flag football, and I was pretty good at that," he said. "But I was too big to play Pop Warner. I was big for my age, and I would have had to play up in the bigger divisions, so I never played. My freshman year I started playing, and I got good pretty quickly.
"I had to work a little bit, but it started coming on, coming on, and coming on."
Griffen said his work ethic and desire to become the best comes from his mother, Sabrina Scott. She's the one that has pushed him every day to become a star football player and even bigger star off the field.
"My mom is important to me," Griffen said. "That's my mom. She's always been there for me. My mom and dad aren't together, so she's the only person that has been there for me. Without her I wouldn't I be doing anything right now.
"She pushes me hard and makes sure that I get good grades. She stays on me about that. I get so sick of it. I'm like 'mom, I got it.' I get so tired of it, but she means well for me and that's why I love her."
He also loves her because she gave him some good genes to work with. Griffen's mother has held the Agua Fria school shot put record for almost 30 years now.
"She threw the shot put 43-feet, 5 inches," Griffen said. "And she's encouraged me to get involved with as much stuff as I can. I do all the stuff. I have basketball coming up. Then I throw shot put. I took third in the state in shot put, and I did that while playing baseball last year. They wanted me to come out, and I just went out for like three weeks and took third in state.
"Most of the time, you can tell that I'm blessed with some good genes. I view sports as my way to get into college and get a degree. If I get good grades, pass the SAT and play football, I'll end up with a good degree and that's the most important thing."
Griffen admits he's both nervous and excited about the upcoming recruiting process. He's already starting to get bombarded with mail, and he's already landed a scholarship offer from Arizona.
"I like coaches, and that'll be something that I look hard at," he said. "I have an offer from UofA. UCLA is looking at me, and I like them. Florida State sent me a questionnaire. Arizona State is also sending me stuff, and so is Notre Dame, too.
"I want to find a school where I get a good feeling about the coaches, and where I know I can get a good education and a good degree."
That degree likely will be in business, something that Griffen has thought a little bit about in case his dreams of playing in the NFL don't pan out. But he plans on making sure that those dreams do come true.
"I don't know if I am the top player in the state," Griffen said. "The way I look at it, there is always somebody out there working harder than you. I have to work harder and harder to get better than that person. There has to be somebody out there working harder than you, and I don't want that to ever happen.
"That's how I'm going to be a success in football and in life. My mom taught me to work hard, and I'm going to not stop until I get to where I want to go."
So hop on the Owl Express now because it sounds it should be a fun ride.