At 6'2" and 395 pounds, Damien Griffin, a senior tackle and noseguard for Miami's Northwestern High, runs the 40 in 5.0 seconds, bench-presses 500 pounds and, as his coach, Willie Goldsmith, puts it, "bounces kids around like they were Ping-Pong balls."
"My teammates joke around," says Damien, who first caught Goldsmith's eye when he was 14 and weighed a mere 340. "They say I'm too big to be playing out there and hurting other people's children."
Of course his teammates don't have much room to talk—or much room to do anything else, for that matter. Three of them, all offensive linemen, also top 300 pounds. There's Jarrad (Giant) Cummings (6'4", 312), Levert (Twin Towers) Jordan (6'5", 315) and Shamis (Bubba Fat) Maura (6'3", 325).
That's a lot of weight, but Northwestern carries it well. The Bulls (6-3 overall) are the reigning class 6-A state champs and, after a 48-42 win over previously undefeated Miami Central last Friday, have clinched the district title. Still, Goldsmith says he has tried to get Damien to trim down to increase the player's stamina (and possibly to avoid having to continue special-ordering his practice pants). Earlier this season Goldsmith asked Damien to try eating a salad at lunchtime. When no pounds were shed, the coach made inquiries. It seems Damien had been faithfully eating the salad every day—in addition to his regular lunch.
The prospective cost of having to feed Damien isn't scaring away colleges. Schools such as Miami, Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State are recruiting him. Wherever Damien ends up, he plans to study criminal justice. "Ever since I was little I wanted to be a police officer," he says, pausing and chuckling. "I mean ever since I was younger."