CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — No 24-hour span embodies Caleb Griffin’s country-traversing ways like a day he experienced in early March.
On March 5, Griffin was on the floor in Fort Collins (Colo.) hoisting his longtime close friend and former Colorado State guard Kendle Moore in the air after Moore posted 19 points on Senior Night. The next morning, Griffin, a kicker at the University of Illinois, boarded a flight back to Illinois. He landed in time to head to the State Farm Center to watch the Illinois men’s basketball team win a share of the Big Ten Championship in a home win against Iowa, which prompted an arena-sized court storm to celebrate.
None of this trip existed in a vacuum. Griffin finds his way here or there. He’s seemingly almost always somehow at a sporting event in whatever state he needs to be in that day. It became so many events that during winter break he was bored and began digging through his photo memories to compile a list. From Florida to Pennsylvania, Colorado and Georgia, Griffin has been a little bit of everywhere. He’s been to 14 different states — including his own games on the Illini football team — since the beginning of the fall.
First, it’s important to recognize that Griffin both enjoys sports — he was a four-sport standout at Danville (Ill.) High School — and enjoys travel. That simplicity is enough to explain part of the rationale behind hitting as many sporting events as possible, including a bulk of them on the University of Illinois campus and various high schools nearby. But that reality only accounts for maybe 30 percent of why Griffin makes it a priority to attend these games.
The more important part of this experience is that Griffin wants to see his childhood friends in their natural element. He likes having a support system at his games and understands the work necessary to make the games a reality, thus wanting to be a part of another support system — plus free tickets on his friends’ guest list surely don’t hurt.
“That’s just something that’s always been cool to me is just seeing my friends, my people playing the sport they love,” Griffin told Illini Inquirer. “All the work they put in, all the work that we’ve put in, just seeing them out there performing. I know I enjoy people supporting me so I like to be there to support others. I don’t know. I thought about it that when I’m older in life I’m not going to have these opportunities. I’ll go to my kids’ games, obviously, but I’m not just going to show up to a random high school game or a random college game. I really enjoy seeing people that I know play. I know a lot of people in college athletics and high school sports right now so this is the perfect time for me to go see people and go support people.”
By this point, you’re probably asking: shouldn’t he be kicking a football? Fair enough question as Griffin stands on the cusp of his best opportunity to be the starting kicker for the Illini entering his fifth season. He kicked well during the 2020 season (1-for-1 on field goals, 5-for-5 on point after attempts and five touchbacks in eight kickoffs) when former kicker James McCourt was caught up in a COVID-19 contact tracing web, …….