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Football, music strike the right chord with Cameron Griffin

The View Park Prep senior is a gridiron force and a guitar player. The music grounds him; the football talent may send him to UCLA.

October 25, 2013|Eric Sondheimer

To hear the soothing, spiritual sounds coming from 17-year-old Cameron Griffin's acoustic guitar as he gently plucks its strings leaves a visitor feeling as if he has been transported to a sandy beach at sunset amid cool, refreshing waves.

Then, seeing a video of the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Griffin sending a ballcarrier crashing to the ground adds to the intrigue of a teenager who's clearly a savant of sorts.

How else to explain someone who took up the guitar seven years ago and taught himself to play by listening to music, then became a football standout only after going out for the team as a freshman at Los Angeles View Park Prep and learning how to play by listening to his coaches.

"The kid is special," Coach Robert Ambers said.

Yes, he is.

With a 3.6 grade-point average and a dedication to school, family and community (he goes to his grandfather's church every Sunday and plays in the church band), Griffin comes off as a coach's dream athlete.

He wants to become an engineer, because that's what his father and grandfather were and he became mesmerized growing up asking questions about why houses were built certain ways and why specific tools were used.

He has a brain that works on many different levels, but when he plays his guitar, it's all about what his heart is telling him.

"I'm playing what feels right," he said. "There's only 12 notes in a guitar, which means you're one note away from the right sound. If I play and I hear something wrong, I'll change it. It's my heart, my soul."

You never know what might come out of a Griffin guitar session — blues, jazz, gospel, soft rock.

"I play at least one song in every genre," he said.

He composes songs at a moment's notice. He was on the phone a week ago talking to a girl and started playing a relaxing tune that defied logic, how someone with no formal training could simply create something out of nothing.

"I'm just relaxed," he said of what happens when he plays his guitar. "It's like a getaway from life. You forget all your worries."

Griffin has much going for him, and college recruiters are beginning to notice. He committed months ago to San Diego State, but Pac-12 Conference schools have begun to take interest. He was offered a scholarship by UCLA on Tuesday.

Griffin might be the best player in City Section Division III. He has 86 tackles for the Knights (6-0).

Then there are his off-the-field qualities. He's the fourth-youngest of five children and part of an extended family of 15, many of whose members either play an instrument or sing. None played football or were into sports until Griffin took the plunge when classmates convinced him to give it a try.

"I knew the game, I watched the game, I never played the game," he said.

He always followed NFL and college players. To see what he has accomplished in a short time means his upside can be huge. His real love of football comes when he gets to use his brain.

"I like outsmarting the opponent," he said.

Whatever happens in football, Griffin knows playing the guitar will always give him an alternative world.

"It's a humbling tool," he said. "No matter how many offers I get, I can always play music and it will ground me. It will make me realize where I came from."

Twitter: @LATSondheimer

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