Burke Griffin, Peninsula Gateway’s Male Athlete of the Year talks about his time at PHS
When Burke Griffin met Peninsula High School football coach Ross Filkins in seventh grade, Burke fit the profile of an elementary school student more than a middle school student.
When Burke finally entered high school, that elementary school look was upgraded to a middle school student.
Even if Burke didn’t look the part of your typical high school student early on, he evolved and grew into a captivating team leader for the Peninsula Seahawks football program as a starting quarterback for three seasons.
That leadership as a two-year captain helped push the Seahawks to three-straight Class 3A state tournament appearances and makes him The Peninsula Gateway’s Male Athlete of the Year from Peninsula High School.
“He’s very accountable,” Filkins said. “He understands the role and responsibility he has on the team. His character is probably his strongest asset, he always carried himself really well and was very respectfully. He was much more mature than he probably should’ve been at that point.”
Before Burke amassed over 6,500 total yards passing and running and 53 touchdowns total in his career, he first had to win the starting job at PHS his sophomore season. While in a hotly contested battle with an upperclassmen over the starting job, Griffin had to earn the starting nod while getting equal reps during preseason camp. With Griffin’s chances of starting up in the air entering the 2016 season, that role was stunningly changed just after camp.
“I was sitting back, relaxing fresh off of camp when I found out that a kid who was in the running for the starting quarterback job just quit and transferred to another school,” Filkins said.
When Filkins delivered the news to Griffin that he would be starting, those traits of being mature beyond his age showed up once again.
“He didn’t bat an eye,” Filkins said. “He really didn’t change anything because he already carried himself in a leadership-type role. Even if he hadn’t won the starting role he was already making an impact because of those leadership skills.”
After leading the Seahawks to back-to-back 3A quarterfinal appearances in the state playoffs, Griffin entered his senior season looking to right some wrongs from the year before. One of those was against rival Timberline, a team that spanked the Seahawks 51-14 the season before. Griffin knew that he had at least one more chance to defeat one of his biggest 3A South Sound Conference rivals after suffering losses both in his sophomore and junior seasons.
In a shootout with Timberline’s Hunter Campeau, Griffin was 11 for 16 for 164 yards passing and a touchdown while rushing the ball 23 times for 75 yards and three touchdowns including what turned out to be the game-winning score in a 28-27 overtime thriller.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever ran that fast in my life,” Griffin said. “We got the ball to start overtime and coach (Filkins) was like let’s take a shot right now, let’s get them right here. It was designed to be a double move but the play broke down, I found a lane and tucked the ball and ran. It turns out that game was for the league championship so that game will always be special for me.”
Having slayed one beast, there was another down the road in the 3A State Playoffs against O’Dea.
The Seahawks had not reached the semifinals during Griffin’s time at PHS and they were facing O’Dea, a team that they lost to 28-0 in the season’s first contest. Griffin wanted to take down the Fighting Irish and reach the semifinals until everything stopped.
In the third quarter, Griffin was scrambling and as he was being taken down he, coach Filkins and the entire Seahawks sideline heard the noise.
Burke Griffin had broken his femur.
“I went down like it was a normal play and usually I pop up but I couldn’t at that moment and I knew something was wrong,” Griffin said. “I was laying there holding my leg and I looked down and it was pointing in the wrong direction.”
What happened, according to coach Filkins is something that he’ll never forget and something he says speaks to the leadership abilities of Griffin.
“He pulled the two backups quarterbacks in close while he was on the ground, he pulled them close and was actually helping them out with the game plan while he was on the ground,” Filkins said. “He was pointing out adjustments and things they need to look out for. It’s crazy because we ended up scoring on that drive thanks to those adjustments Burke talked about.”
With Griffin’s high school career ending, the next step was college in the fall of 2019. Now, all of the sudden, he had an obstacle to battle.
16 hours after he had surgery, he was looking to start the rehab process, something he continues to this day working out at least four to five days a week and hoping some schools were still in pursuit of him.
One school was, and had been for a while: The University of New Hampshire.
Having participated in a camp for the school the previous summer, Griffin had remained in contact with the school and vice versa. They had given Burke an offer around the fifth week of his senior season and remained steadfast in bringing him to the northeast.
“Some schools that were interested in me either pulled back their interest or just stopped contacting me at all,” Griffin said. “They (New Hampshire) stuck by me for the longest and that meant a lot to me.”
After his official visit in January, Griffin signed his Letter of Intent to the University of New Hampshire in early February. One of the attractive things about the school is their one-year MBA program that is available and Griffin says that while he redshirts the 2019-2020 season, he will look to enroll in the program.
Griffin has played quarterback, defensive back and even done some punting in his time at Peninsula. That diversity and athletic skill is something that longtime UNH head coach Sean McDonnell values and feels that Griffin will bring to the program when he’s fully healthy.
“We’ve brought in kids that have had all types of injuries,” McDonnell said. “ACL tears, torn muscles and broken bones, but if a kid can work hard and is ready and committed to work in our program -- and you just get a sense that Burke is that type of kid who works hard and is diligent. Over time, he’ll be taken care of and he’ll have a role in our program.”