Photos by Cameron Flaisch
It isn’t often that a group of four brothers rises amongst the ranks of the nation’s top high school football recruits together, all while leading their high school team to win its historic first ever football state championship title in 2016. On paper, this story would seem like a football enthusiast’s fantasy, but this is all a reality for Jaylen, Ja’Kolbi, Ja’Quon, and Jamious Griffin.
Tyrone and LaBretha Griffin, Jr. (Jaylen and Jamious) and Misty White (Ja’Kolbi and Ja’Quon) are the proud parents of these young men who lean heavily on their family when making a decision that will have a huge impact on their lives.
The brothers, otherwise known to fans and locals as “Dem Griffin Boys” or “DGB” for short, spent their time with the Rome High School Wolves striking fear in the hearts of unlucky opponents who faced them on the football field. With state championship rings as souvenirs for the history they made while all together at Rome, for the first time the brothers will be separated.
Jaylen (linebacker) and Ja’Kolbi (safety) are headed away to play college ball while Ja’Quon (defensive tackle – class of 2018) and Jamious (running back – class of 2019) will be looking to make the most of their remaining time with the Wolves this coming season. With Jaylen already taking the field for Virginia Tech and Ja’Kolbi headed to Columbus State to suit up as a Cougar, Ja’Quon and Jamious are continuing the busy recruiting process that will take them to the next level.
No single recruit could ever imagine what the brothers have gone through in weighing the factors of what’s most important to them – playing alongside each other or choosing their own path. The bond that they share is evident from the viral video posted of the boys hugging Jaylen goodbye when dropping him off at Virginia Tech for summer workouts with the Hokies. In a house full of football prodigies, this situation begs the question, what exactly is the recruiting vibe like within the Griffin household?
“We’re a talented family so we knew that eventually things were going to get going. This was all part of our plan. We really dreamed about this when we were young,” says Ja’Kolbi. “When the ball started rolling, we knew it was show time then. Staying positive and staying humble is one of the big things our parents have taught us. Stay the course.”
And once a big offer rolls in for one of the boys, it is just as you would imagine – a family wide celebration described by the brothers as being similar to a birthday or being “the big man on campus” for that week.
“It was kind of crazy for me because everyone [in the family] knows instantly about our offers, because we’re all in a group chat. There were little offers here and little offers there. Then all of a sudden, a big one comes up and everybody in the group chat is like, ‘Yeah, yeah!’ We’d probably go out to eat for a really big one,” says Jaylen.
After the celebration comes to a close, it is decision time for the Griffin brothers. Constantly visiting schools and chatting with coaches, there aren’t any days off for the brothers when it comes to evaluating the factors most important to them when making decisions for their future.
“It’s kind of like looking for a new house or, better still, a new home. You try to look for those certain things that make you feel like you’re at home,” says Jamious.
Ja’Quon added in the factor of getting himself to the next level after college when explaining his evaluation process.
“Somewhere that fits me and will get me to the next level is what I look for in a college. I don’t want to stop just at college; I want to go to the NFL. That’s one of my biggest goals and something that I dream about daily,” says Ja’Quon.
Jaylen explains what went into the decision for him to attend Virginia Tech.
“First off, I looked at academics. I was looking for a place where I could feel at home, and then I’d evaluate who I’d be playing behind and if I’d have a chance to play. But, one of the main things for me was just to make sure it felt like home, like the right place to go. As we were leaving [Virginia Tech], my dad and I looked at each other and said that this is the place where I need to be,” says Jaylen.
Faith continues to be a major part in Ja’Kolbi’s pursuit to succeed at the next level and was also a factor when evaluating his offers.
“Basically, just praying every night was my process, just wanting to honor God’s plan and to let Him do whatever He wants. We try not to force anything that we aren’t ready for,” says Ja’Kolbi.
The Griffin brothers have the support of active parents, and while the boys have the freedom to make their own choices, their parents offer guidance through the long process of evaluating each decision.
“They really give us the option; they don’t force us into anything. One thing that they really bring to the table is how the roster looks and if we will have a chance to play at this place, or another place,” explains Ja’Kolbi. “I didn’t just look at the best team in the nation because they’re number one. I wanted to go somewhere that’s going to be best for me, a place that’s going to push me to be the best player I can be. That’s what I think we all really look for.
Though the brothers have their own factors to consider when evaluating offers and making decisions, they don’t go through the process alone. Traveling to visit schools together and talking amongst each other about possibilities, they carry that bond with them wherever they go.
“Most of the time when we go to places, we all go as brothers, and they show love and that’s what we really look for – the family vibe,” says Ja’Kolbi, “That’s really the deal breaker – if they show us that they want us there and they care about us, like the close-knit family environment we have at home.”
For Ja’Kolbi, Ja’Quon, and Jamious, playing at the next level has always been a dream without a doubt, but before everything began falling into place for this family, Jaylen surprisingly didn’t always see a future for himself in football.
“My freshman and sophomore year, I actually wanted to quit. I didn’t want to play football anymore. I felt like I was too small. I wanted to play basketball instead,” explains Jaylen, “and then my dad took me to see the Georgia Stars team. That was an eye opener for me. That’s when I started taking football seriously. Coming into my sophomore season, I wasn’t really starting because I wasn’t taking it seriously. But, something clicked in my head. Everything has been going great since then.”
With decisions to solidify and commitments to different places, some wonder if the brothers will play together once again. Even with commitments elsewhere, they also consider the same.
“I still want them to come [to Virginia Tech]. I’m hoping that’s what happens,” says Jaylen. “To keep them around here would be the greatest thing ever. I tell them all the time, ‘Think Hokies.’ The only one who messes with us about playing against us would be Jamious…he’s always joking around like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go to Clemson and beat y’all.’”
“I always kid with them and tell them I don’t want to go to the same school as them so that I can play against them,” says Jamious, “I’m going to choose the school that’s right for me.”
“We know there’s a possibility that we could all play together and if things go the way that we want, that we’ll all end up in the same place. There’s still a possibility of that,” says Ja’Kolbi. “Jaylen is already at Virginia Tech and they have a history of having brothers play together there. So, if things go as planned, we can all end up in the same place.”
While at Columbus State for the 2017 season to play both football and baseball, Ja’Kolbi has the option to transfer to another program after his first semester. That option is contingent upon whether he receives an offer from Virginia Tech.
“I wouldn’t mind playing in the ACC or the SEC, but just playing with my brother will be something that we’ve always wanted to do. It would be nice to get back to that high school feeling again, so that’s really why I would love to play with my brother again,” says Ja’Kolbi.
Ja’Quon committed to LSU after receiving an offer from Head Coach Ed Orgeron himself during his visit to Baton Rouge.
“I wasn’t imagining I’d get an offer from him [Orgeron] telling me personally. That was pretty cool. I didn’t ever think I was going to get an offer from them,” says Ja’Quon, “I couldn’t stop smiling. I was excited; I was happy.”
Jamious, who still has two seasons left with the Wolves, currently has plans to commit to Clemson University if he receives an offer from them.
“Clemson…if they offer me a scholarship, I’m going to commit,” says Jamious. “They [parents] just tell me, ‘Don’t worry about it right now,’ because I’m young. They encourage me to just to keep playing football and keep my grades up.”
No matter where their decisions take them, the bond that the Griffin brothers share will keep them connected, and while this talented family has already proven what they can do in their hometown, it’s their time to write their own history wherever they go.
“We’ve always dreamed of shocking the world,” says Ja’Kolbi, “We have a plan – wanting to get to the next level after the next level and getting a free education; that’s what it’s all about. And if God is willing, play together again and do some big things at the college level. We’re all for it.”