Olaijah Griffin Carving His Own Name on the Field
by Lorenzo Reyna
Imagine Olaijah Griffin listening to the hit rap songs “Regulate,” “This DJ” and “Nobody Does It Better.” The Mission Viejo Class of 2018 star cornerback may bob his head to the tunes, but Griffin can also add this claim: he grew up with the lyricist spewing out the words in those hit singles. The world knows this voice as legendary West Coast rapper Warren G. The Passing Down alum Griffin knows him as dad.
Griffin, who was one of several rising 2018 stars at Passing Down’s Southern California Regional on March 20 in Fontana, said his famous father was his first football mentor - all while juggling a work schedule that often included going on national tours and being inside the studio.
“It was a great experience,” Griffin said regarding his younger days with his father. “I went on a couple of tours. We traveled across the country when I was a younger. It was hard for me to go to different places sometimes. But it was a great experience growing up. I’m now trying to make a name for myself.”
When the three-time platinum recording artist wasn’t inside the studio, he went out to the field and threw the football with his future college football prospect.
“I started when I was four-years-old running around the house carrying the football. He would then take me out on the field and gave me a tryout. He loves football,” Griffin said.
Warren G was one of thousands of spectators who saw Griffin and his team, Ground Zero Panoramic, make another run for the So Cal regional title. While Panoramic fell short in a dramatic 14-6 loss to the champion Pro Way Hot Boyz, Griffin rarely saw the football come his way. It was because Griffin emerged as Panoramic’s latest island cornerback creation from Armond Hawkins and Anthony Brown.
Griffin hovered over and followed receivers like an eagle flying by and then cornering its prey. His speed and wingspan got opposing quarterbacks to throw away from his side on multiple occasions. Except when that happened, Griffin’s other heralded teammates Thomas Graham and Jaiden Woodbey were there to snatch the pigskin or create an incompletion.
Griffin was one of a handful of Ground Zero players who entered the Ralph Lewis Sports Park complex with scholarship offers in tow. Cal, UCLA, Colorado State and Oregon are four reported schools that have made an early pursuit of him with the latter becoming the first program to offer him.
He said one nearby university has an assistant coach who’s in constant contact with him. “I’ve been talking to coach Meetch (Demetrius Martin of UCLA) a lot. I’ve been having some good conversations with him,” Griffin said. “He tells me about the program and he keeps me up to date on their defense and the players they produce.”
Griffin, who first entered Passing Down as an eighth grader, said his early success on the football field amazes him.
“When I was younger, I didn’t think I was going to get big like this. But it happened. Just by working hard and being around the right people,” Griffin said.
Going to Passing Down at a young age helped mold the Mission Viejo corner. “Ever since I came here as an eighth grader, it’s helped me get better before high school,” Griffin said. “I was going against great players early and it gave me a good experience.”
Now, part of his resume includes winning a state title – which he got as an underclassmen on an undefeated Diablos team.
“It was crazy. I was a sophomore winning the state championship,” Griffin said, who contributed to the MV defense last fall. “It was huge because it was the first time we won state at Mission Viejo.”
Even though he’s emerged as a football stud from a famous musician, Griffin describes himself as religious; proven by what his ritual is before games.
“I first pray to God,” Griffin said. “I go in there with the hope I can lock up anybody no matter. I go out there thinking I’m going to get three picks a game - just thinking big.”
Along with guidance from his father, he’s received assistance from two of Ground Zero’s oldest members: USC commits Graham and Stephen Carr.
“It’s a great atmosphere. I got a bunch of leaders out there like Thomas and Stephen. They teach me a lot of stuff like peer steps,” Griffin said.
As the college football recruiting world soon awaits where Griffin will continue his career at, is there the added feeling that Warren G would like to see his son wear the colors of his favorite NFL team the Oakland Raiders if a pro career comes calling?
“I’m pretty sure he wants me to. I never asked him that,” Griffin said, smiling. In the meantime, while most hip-hop fans continue to listen to Warren G’s hit music, Griffin is thankful that he has a supportive fan in his father.
“Most of the time with where I’m at, he’s there,” Griffin said.