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Football: Hugh Griffin has been ‘The Natural’ for Waubonsie Valley

Waubonsie Valley's Hugh Griff tackles Streamwood's Noah Polich (8) during game last season. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media

Waubonsie Valley's Hugh Griffin tackles Streamwood's Noah Polich (8) during a game last season. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 26, 2013 6:29AM

Like many kids, Waubonsie Valley senior linebacker Hugh Griffin can remember when he was 9 years old and watching football with his father.

He wasn’t just watching, though. He was learning the intricacies and nuances of the game and building a football IQ which has helped him become one of the top linebackers in the Aurora-Naperville area.

“He’s got a great nose for the football and just makes tackles,” Warriors coach Paul Murphy said. “His football IQ is very high, and now we’ve also been using him as a tight end on offense because he offers us another weapon.”

Understanding the game seemingly came naturally for Griffin.

“My dad says he’s never had to coach me because I knew what I was doing early on,” he said. “It’s like I was born with it. We’d be watching college football and the NFL and he told me to watch the linemen. I learned a lot at an early age.”

That knowledge allowed him to excel as a sophomore for the Warriors, where he immediately made an impact, returning fumbles and interceptions in his first season at Waubonsie Valley and collecting 81 tackles.

“He picked off two passes and picked up a fumble in his first varsity game,” Murphy said. “Now the past two years, he’s been our leading tackler, which says a lot about the player he is.”

Last year, the 5-foot-11, 210-pounder led the team with 123 tackles, including 11 for loss. He even had more than teammate Austin Lacke, who was the 2012 Upstate Eight Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

“I think Austin drew a lot of attention away from me,” Griffin said. “That created more opportunities to make plays, and I just go out there and do what I need to do.”

As a third-year player, he’s taken on a leadership role, quite different from when he was an up-and-coming underclassmen in 2011. It’s certainly a change for Griffin, who prefers to lead by example and isn’t up and in the faces of his teammates.

“I think that when I was starting sophomore year I was nervous and needed to calm down and play my game,” he said. “By the time this year started, I knew the coaches wanted me to be more vocal and I’m trying to do it, but I’m more of a quiet guy. But still pushing my teammates forward.”

Such a push has been a plus with several new faces playing more prominently on the defensive side of the ball, but none with as much experience as Griffin.

“It’s good to have a calming influence out there who knows what’s going on and has been there before,” Murphy said. “He makes sure the guys are lining up right and finding the football and flying to it. His instinct does have a carryover effect and that’s good for his teammates.”

While the Warriors’ offense has been impressive, Griffin’s efforts on defense certainly have been notable too, and have helped the Warriors to a 25-6 record the past three seasons.

Beginning next week, he’ll help the team attempt a deep postseason run.

Then, he’ll look more into colleges. Drake and Northern Iowa are two that are on his list.

“The biggest part for us is to not shoot ourselves in the foot,” he said. “We’ve done that a couple of times and it’s important for us to avoid that and have a good postseason.”

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