In arena football, quarterbacks and wide receivers grab most of the attention and in a pass happy environment, defensive backs will have most of the tackles. That’s just the nature of the game, but a defensive line that can bring the heat and disrupt the passing game can sway the outcome on any night.
This season one of those players supplying the heat for the Massachusetts Pirates is J.D. Griggs. The former sack leader from the Indoor Football League has eight tackles in the Pirates first seven games and leads team with four sacks.
The former undrafted free agent who signed with Indianapolis of the National Football League in 2013 also saw time that season with Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League. Later stops included playing with Colorado in the IFL in 2016 and Spokane last season where he led the league with 11 and a half sacks.
Griggs hopes a successful season in Worcester proves fruitful in several ways.
“When you come to an arena football team one of the keys is to see if the program is going to help you advance,” he said. “The season has just started and we already have had two players tryout for the Canadian Football League and one has been signed. I believe that they are really trying to help us advance our careers,” he added.
Griggs grew up in Piscataway, New Jersey which is in the central part of the state. Many football fans have heard or know about northern high school powerhouses like Don Bosco Prep and Bergen Catholic, but Griggs played at Piscataway High School. Most recently that school has produced DB Kyle Wilson, who played six seasons with the Jets and Saints, OL Anthony Davis, a former first round pick by San Francisco and two time Super Bowl Champion safety Malcolm Jenkins.
“I played with Anthony Davis who was a year ahead of me. Malcom and Kyle were a little older,” he said proudly.
When it comes to New Jersey football, Griggs believes that his region has the best talent in the Garden State.
“To be honest, I say that real football is in the public schools in New Jersey and of course Central Jersey has the best athletes in basketball, football, baseball. Maybe it’s the water in that part of New Jersey? Don Bosco Prep, they just get a bunch of players from all over.
Griggs admits however that South Jersey might have produced the best running backs with current standouts like Corey Clement of the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles and Jonathan Taylor who is a star at Wisconsin. Others NFL names who fans will remember are Donald Brown, Knowshon Moreno, Keith Elias, Ron Dayne and Shonn Greene.
Griggs played with Greene at the University of Iowa, but it was his coach, Kirk Ferentz who left a lasting impression.
“I loved coach Ferentz. He is one of the few people in my life whom I would call a mentor. He actually taught more about life than football and he showed me how you need your team and other people in order to help yourself to be successful. He talked about football a little, but he talked about life even more. He would show us how if we messed up in practice that we could mess up in life.”
How have those life lessons helped Griggs with the Pirates?
“I tell these guys a lot that you have to practice like a professional so you can play like one. Coach Ferentz taught me that practice is not a fun time just to learn football, it’s the right time to learn football, so you have to be focused all the time. I tell players, don’t do things that you think will make you look good, you have to practice like a professional so it will look good in the game.”
After two years at Iowa, Griggs transferred to Nassau Community College and then finished his college career at the University of Akron. Now, like many of his teammates, he continues to work toward a championship season and another shot at the NFL. He says he’s just a hard worker who loves football.
“I love playing the game, watching film all day and working out,” Griggs said. I’m getting ready to get back to the next level.
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. Pirate Nation Season Ticket Memberships for the 2018 season are now available. Pirate Nation Memberships start as low as $60.00. To become a Pirate Nation Season Ticket member or for more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email email@example.com or visit www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single game tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For group outings please call Kara Mancini at 508-929-0125 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Pirates on facebook at facebook.com/MAPirates on Instagram @mass.pirates, as well as Twitter @mass_pirates.