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Featured in HBO’s ‘The Cost of Winning’ documentary, St. Frances quarterback John Griffith relying on faith in uncertain times

Saint Frances Panthers offensive lineman Xavier Castillo (78) blocks IMG Academy Ascenders linebacker Grant Miller (9) as quarterback John Griffith (13) passes at Morgan State's Hughes Memorial Stadium Fri., Oct. 18, 2019.
Saint Frances Panthers offensive lineman Xavier Castillo (78) blocks IMG Academy Ascenders linebacker Grant Miller (9) as quarterback John Griffith (13) passes at Morgan State's Hughes Memorial Stadium Fri., Oct. 18, 2019. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Tuesdays are busy days at the home of the Griffith family.

John Griffith, quarterback for the St. Frances football team, has been congregating with teammates on a weekly basis this fall. Football, however, isn’t the main topic of conversation.

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The Panthers’ junior leader, recently featured along with the entire St. Frances program in the HBO “The Cost of Winning” documentary, is gathering groups of six to seven players for bible study sessions and to make efforts toward assisting needy children as part of Operation Christmas Child.

“It all started when quarantine hit and Coach [Biff] Poggi used to do Bible studies with us, so I said, ‘We should do it ourselves,’” Griffith said. “It could just be us as a team that does it because Coach Poggi couldn’t do it anymore because of coronavirus. My mom and I do lessons every Tuesday to just teach the kids about the Bible and other stories in it.”

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Griffith was taught by his parents from a young age to constantly be looking for ways to help others. A great deal of his teammates come from poverty and he wants to help get their mind off of things.

“Those are my brothers — my teammates and I love them,” Griffith said. “I just try to follow Jesus' footsteps as best as I can.”

Fitting into a Catholic school such as St. Frances, assistant coach Messay Hailemiriam says that Griffith lives the mantra of “everything that we do is for the purpose of serving our Christ.”

“Him as a young man, his faith is unparalleled [more so] than your average kid," Hailemiriam said. “I’ve watched him during times of COVID, where most adults are having a hard time facing this unexpected and unparalleled situation, I’ve seen him excel in it. He encourages his teammates to be leaders and to believe in the fact that they can work towards anything that they want in life, to trust God and let God be the reason why they excel.”

Meanwhile, Griffith maintains a 4.3 grade-point average at St. Frances — the highest at the school. The time that he doesn’t use on the field, he uses in the classroom to help tutor his teammates.

COVID-19 put a halt on St. Frances' march to the top of the national high school football food chain this season. As other local private school programs returned to the field, St. Frances opted to wait until spring.

Griffith has remained focused.

He schedules speed training for 6 a.m. every morning and spends three to four days a week with former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Qadry Ismail. Griffith also meets with his teammates to work on routes and spends his Sundays working with his offensive coordinator Chris Baucia at the Quarterback Factory. Griffith fits in time with Hailemariam two days a week.

“John is 21-1 in high school and playing on a national stage,” Baucia said. “He started as a true freshman and competes every day. He has a high work ethic and he’s fortunate that he can come to a place where he can be pushed.”

Griffith’s father, Jim, believes that his fortitude in his faith and classroom translates to the football field in the form of toughness. John fractured his wrist in the seventh grade while playing football. As he writhed in pain, he continued to play without there being a backup quarterback in tow.

“He didn’t know that it was fractured, but he played the whole game on his throwing hand,” Jim Griffith recalled. “All that he could do was hand the ball off, but he’s tough as nails when it comes to that.”

John Griffith trains with some of the best quarterbacks in the area at Quarterback Factory. Five-star Oklahoma commit Caleb Williams also attends, along with St. Paul’s quarterback Scott Smith III (Towson commit), Calvert Hall’s Noah Brannock and a number of other Division I players.

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The younger Griffith is ranked 27th in the country as a pro-style quarterback and is a 3-star recruit, per 247Sports. He has offers from Boston College, Kentucky, LSU, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee and Toledo. While he’s gotten the offers, he won’t be able to visit any college campuses because of the safety measures put in place by the NCAA for COVID-19.

He became the de-facto leader for the Panthers after his performance last season as a sophomore for a team that went 11-1 and finished the season ranked fourth nationally. He passed for 1,523 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions with a 66.44 completion percentage. His best game came against Florida’s American Collegiate Academy, where he threw for 220 yards and five touchdowns on just 17 passes.

His game drew the praise of co-head coach Henry Russell, who has seen the young quarterback develop as a leader on the field. Ironically enough, Griffith in his own words said, “I wasn’t really a leader” as a freshman.

“He’s just mature beyond his years,” coach Henry Russell said after the victory last September. “John is an incredibly hard worker and we’ve never had a sophomore captain. That says a lot about who he is as a person, his character and no one outworks him. It’s showing on the field. He would grab the receivers, drive them to his house, find a field and throw around. I’m just so proud of him and happy for him to see the success."

During this time of uncertainty, without formal competition, being internally driven means that much more. For Griffith, he’s hoping the work he and his teammates are putting in now both with and without a football readies them to pick up where they left off when its time to return to the field.

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