Yes, I know this is late. Yes, No. 54 is also coming along shortly. But, 1. I was traveling for SEC Media Days, and 2. this is too good to pass over.
Has any recent player begin his career with as much adversity as Adam Griffith?
The feel-good orphan story from Poland, Griffith had been adopted at a young age by a large devout family in Georgia -- the State, not the strategic Black Sea nation on the cusp of the Great Eurasian Plain. As a kid in Calhoun, he had one dream program on his wish list. And, despite being a 3-star and national No. 2 PK, Griffith held out for that offer from Nick Saban.
Adam saw mop-up duty as a Freshman in 2013. And, having the most leg, he was called in to attempt the more ridiculous, lengthier kicks for Alabama, including a 56 yarder in the season-ending game against Auburn with just :01 remaining in regulation. His first high pressure kick will forever go down as one of the most gut-wrenching Tide losses. The next year, Griffith’s accuracy was all over the place; his leg just did not seem to be there either. In 2014, he only hit on 12-of-19 FGs, good for 64%.
We did not find out until 2015 that Griffth’s sophomore season was plagued with a back injury, obviously affecting his ability to drive through the ball and generate torque. So, all was forgiven until 2015, when he would start off with more of the same: He missed his first 4 kicks of the year, none particularly long. Then, he would bear down and hit his next four — again, none particularly long (40.) He had a bad game against Arkansas — .500, long of 35. So, with A&M, Tennessee and the rest of the SEC season approaching, Griffith had been barely above a 50-50 kicker with a long of 40 yards. He hit on his next 4 kicks against the Vols and Aggies, all shorter affairs, and was riding a bit of a questionable hot streak when LSU came into town.
The 2015 LSU game, like most recent high-stakes tilts between the two, had featured a lot of tight play, ferocious defense, and more ugly offense than you’d care to relive. Knotted at 10-10 and facing 65 yards to-go with 2:08 in the first half, Alabama went into its two-minute drill: A nice pass to ArDarius Stewart against the prevent; a 10-yard run by Derrick Henry; then the Tide drive stalled. Derrick Henry was stuffed at the line, Arden Key sacked Jake Coker, Coker with an incompletion. Alabama found itself with 4th and 11 at the LSU 38 with no timeouts and few options.
Out trotted the Junior kicker who had hit on just 10 of 16 kicks through the season, and none suggested he had the leg or confidence to hit such a long kick in such a high pressure situation.
Boy, were we wrong.
Adam killed the ball right down the middle, with a kick that would have been good from 58-59 yards away. Bryant-Denny erupted. The student section went berserk. A strange woman was hugging me in the tunnel. A drunk frat boy had already kissed me the second the ball went through the uprights. It was weird for us all.
That kick was such an improbable, much-needed moment for both Griffith and the Crimson Tide. A different Alabama team came out of the locker room as the Tide pummeled LSU 30-10. The Tide became the team to beat in the nation. Derrick Henry became the man to beat in the Heisman race.
And, for Griffith, it would be a career-defining moment. That 55-yard kick, without the tee, is tied for second-longest in Alabama history, and is tied for the longest kick without a tee.
Adam went 13-of-16 down the stretch, including avenging the Iron Bowl in a 5-for-5 performance in Jordan Hare, where three of the kicks were 40+ and the long was 50 yards.
Adam Griffith earned all-SEC honors in 2015, and would finish out his career with an even steadier senior season, where he hit 75% of his attempts.
Everyone loves a redemption story.
55 days ‘til Alabama football