Several Colts rookies looking to carry on family legacies
INDIANAPOLIS — Trey Griffey and Jerome Lane are spending Mother’s Day weekend talking all about their fathers.
It’s standard operating procedure for the two receivers who spent their childhoods running around professional clubhouses and locker rooms.
Now, they find themselves working side-by-side in the Indianapolis Colts’ locker room, talking about their own experiences about living life in the spotlight and the advice they received before rookie mini-camp opened Friday.
“He understands how difficult transitioning to being a professional can be,” Griffey said, referring to his dad, Hall of Fame baseball player Ken Griffey Jr. “So he just said to have fun and compete.”
The path these two sons have chosen is vastly different from other family members.
Griffey’s father and grandfather, Ken, both were selected in the Major League Baseball draft directly out of high school. The eldest Griffey spent parts of five seasons playing minor-league ball before joining Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine.
His son, Ken Griffey Jr., was a star baseball and football player at Moeller High School in Cincinnati and was the top draft pick in the 1987 baseball draft. Less than two years later, he was belting home runs and running down balls for the Seattle Mariners. He played alongside his father, too.
Trey Griffey could have followed in their footsteps after the Mariners drafted the former center fielder in the 24th round of the 2016 draft. But the Arizona football player had sworn off baseball before starting high school and dreamed of pursuing the football career his father did not.
“My dad wanted me to play whatever I wanted. I loved football,” the recently-signed Griffey said. “I just love the contact and the physical part of the game. I don’t have that passion for baseball.”
Lane’s father, Jerome, was best known for breaking a backboard on an iconic dunk while playing at the University of Pittsburgh.
The 6-foot-6, 230-pound forward, who was built more like a linebacker than a basketball player and who starred at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary long before LeBron James, was Denver’s first-round pick in the 1988 NBA draft. Lane’s dad went on to play five seasons with Denver, Indiana, Milwaukee and Cleveland.
But the younger Lane thought, at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he was better suited to play football. He signed with the University of Akron as a linebacker and eventually was converted to receiver, which is when NFL scouts became interested. He, like Griffey, got some instructions from his dad for the three-day rookie camp that opened Friday.
“He told me ‘Don’t make too many friends, mostly because they might not be with the team long,” the Colts’ rookie said. “Or you’ll be fighting to take one of their jobs or they might be fighting to take yours.”
Griffey and Lane aren’t the only players in town trying to carry on legacies.
Indy also invited Jakhari Gore from Marian College, a local NAIA school, for a tryout this weekend. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound running back sounds just like his cousin, Frank Gore, the Colts’ starting running back.
“I’ve always admired Frank,” Jakhari Gore said. “As a little kid, I always watched him, I went to games and cheered for him. He’s given me a lot of good advice and I need to go use it.”
Griffey, Lane and especially Gore have something else in common, too. They are now the longest of long shots to make the team. Each was undrafted, and none possesses the numbers that typically dazzle NFL scouts.
In four seasons at Arizona, Griffey had 79 catches for 1,241 yards. Lane finished his career at Akron with 101 catches and 1,800 yards. Gore, who started his career at LSU before attending Florida International and finally Marian, had 276 carries for 1,782 yards over the past two seasons.
The good news is that the Colts have kept at least one undrafted rookie each of the past 18 years, the NFL’s longest active streak.
And all three have a big support group to lean on, even if it means working on Mother’s Day weekend.
“I’ll have to send her some stuff,” Griffey said with a smile. “But she loves it, she loves it.”