These are busy times for Chase Griffin at UCLA. It is year two as a backup quarterback for the Bruins. Now Griffin is quarterbacking life and football in Westwood.
He did not play in 2019 and declared it as his redshirt year. This season is a “freebie” for all Fall athletes, per NCAA rules. As a redshirt freshman he was ready to join the battle for the number two spot behind incumbent Dorian Thompson- Robinson. Austin Burton was the backup last year but transferred to Purdue in the off-season. Colson Yankoff was now eligible for the Bruins after his transfer from Washington. UCLA also added Parker McQuarrie as part of their 2020 recruiting class. There were six quarterbacks in all when Spring camp started in March. Yankoff and Griffin were getting plenty of snaps, vying to be #2. It is not an insignificant role at UCLA. Thompson-Robinson has not made it through either of his first two seasons injury-free.
Chase Griffin Is Quarterbacking Life And Football
Then, with less than a handful of Spring camp workouts in, everything was shut down. Ultimately, the school closed, all athletics closed and life became a remote enterprise because of COVID-19. Players were sent home and to their own workouts. There were Zoom meetings with position coaches and of course with head coach Chip Kelly. But there was nothing going on that allowed the players to move up the competition ladder.
The normal off-season was busy. There were the players speaking out on their own behalf with regards to COVID testing and protocols. They wanted assurances the schools would look after the players instead of their own financial best interests. And then came August 11 and the announcement from Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott that the conference football season would be “postponed” until after January 1st, 2021.
Of course, other conferences in other parts of the country went ahead with an adjusted football schedule. Players throughout the Pac 10 and Big 10 were left to watch others play football on Saturdays. And now the Pac 12 season will be played starting November 7th.
That is not to say there were not other things occupying the minds, time and energy of UCLA players during the “shutdown.” This was a Summer of protests over social justice causes. Players across the country continue to wear the name of victims on their helmets. They wear social justice slogans on patches on their jerseys.
Griffin has found himself in the role of leader, social activist, and vocal crusader.
These words @repjohnlewis shared about one of his heroes – @uclaathletics great Jackie Robinson also apply to him. His life was the personification of his values and his excellence. We ALL are the beneficiaries. #Grateful #Salute #2Tim4:7 pic.twitter.com/5tiw6f00lg
— Chase Griffin 🗳VOTE EARLY🗳 (@ChaseQB11) July 18, 2020
He is now at the forefront of UCLA’s Voting Matters Initiative. It is focused on voter education and voter registration within the Bruin student-athlete population. It was started in June as a way to focus the energy of the school’s student athletes in the wake of social unrest throughout the country. All of UCLA’s coaches have devoted time to voter education seminars for their athletes. UCLA was also in the lead with the NCAA of making election day a day off from athletics activities so that everyone has the time to vote.
Griffin has even gone to the extent of changing his Twitter handle to include the phrase “VOTE EARLY.”
#FeelGoodFriday: Pushing Culture Forward
💙 Impact: Power 5 Conferences, Programs & @NCAA followed with similar initiatives
— Chase Griffin 🗳VOTE EARLY🗳 (@ChaseQB11) October 2, 2020
A Legacy At UCLA
Griffin’s name may not have the national familiarity of UCLA’s social justice legends. Jackie Robinson, Kenny Washington, Arthur Ashe, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and others are the names of lore the world knows. Griffin is also acutely aware of the legacy that exists at UCLA. “I think UCLA has always been a place for social issues to be challenged and progressed, and it is no different during this time,” Griffin said. “I think we have utilized the time off because of the pandemic to turn internally and focus on ourselves.”
In an interview on the Bruin Insider Show in September, Griffin told host Bryan Fenley that it is Ashe, whose name is on the student health center building on campus, who needs more credit. “Arthur Ashe is hugely under evangelized. All of his off the tennis court research on AIDS and health that even still persists today at the Ashe Center is really under evangelized.”
New Administrative Leadership
The convergence of issues and timing have also brought UCLA its first African American athletic director. Martin Jarmond arrived from Boston College in time for the pandemic, social justice protests in the streets, the Pac 12 football shutdown, and the rescheduling of the season.
Griffin credits Jarmond for moving some of the new social initiatives forward. “We have really refocused ourselves on our brand, and we’re excited to put it on full display with things such as the Voting Matters Initiative and our social projects.”
Griffin’s social media output does not take sides in things like BLM marches. What he does do is advocate for the rights of student athletes, push the importance of voting, and encourage his generation to exercise its voice. It likely is for that reason there are few negative responses to his outspoken ways. “If I do get pushback, I don’t even notice it. All that matters is that the work is being put in to make progress. There’s always going to be people who are against that. Luckily I chose a home where the people by and large are for that, and always have been. This institution has always been a beacon for that and we’re not stopping any time soon.”
— Chase Griffin 🗳VOTE EARLY🗳 (@ChaseQB11) September 28, 2020
Back when the COVID outbreak started impacting life on college campuses, more than a dozen Pac 12 payers signed a letter demanding transparency from the schools when it came to testing and protocols. Griffin was not one of the signatories, but he supports the student athletes using their voice. “I do agree that student athletes do have a say and there should be no repercussions for speaking up. Especially when it is in the best interest of universities.”
He repeated that the attitude that exists within UCLA regarding students rights is part of the reason he chose the school. “That is a testament to the character of this institution. We are at a place where we’re building something special that is along the way of how UCLA has always been. ”
Of course he is also here to be a football player and compete for the quarterback job. The numbers ahead of him or behind him in the competition do not phase him. “I’m more of a performance person. I focus on each practice and being ready for week one. If my number is called I know that I have prepared myself to win that game. That is my duty to myself and that is my duty to this team.”