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One for the aged: Sacramento’s Kyran Griffin-Isom is a veteran on a college roster

Sacramento Bee - 8/14/2022

Kyran Griffin-Isom has been here, there and everywhere.

At 29, the Sacramento State football wide receiver is one of the oldest players in college football. He’s had stops around the country that led him to the capital of California, competing for playing time on one of the top-ranked teams in the FCS.

Griffin-Isom grew up on the other side of the country in New Orleans. His mom Kijuana, dad Edward and his siblings had to relocate in 2006 because of Hurricane Katrina. They stayed in a shelter in Mississippi during the natural disaster.

After his family returned home and tried to salvage whatever was left, his parents decided to relocate to Tennessee. Griffin-Isom graduated from West Creek High School in Clarksville in 2011.

“Around that time when I was growing up, it was a very bad place,” Griffin-Isom said. “One of the biggest things my mom and dad wanted to do was move out of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.”

After he finished high school, he didn’t know what was next. He initially wanted to join the Navy, but at the last moment decided to join the Marine Corps, where he served for seven years. His brother, Kalin, also served in the National Guard. When he got out, he still wanted to play football, which has made him teammates with guys who were in elementary school while he was a senior in high school.

“I think about it all the time,” Griffin-Isom said. “I’m a lot older than a lot of the players on the team. But at the same time, it’s the same as the Marine Corps.”

Sacramento State wide receiver coach Tyler Osborne is younger than Griffin-Isom by two years. He says they share a special connection because of their similarity in age.

“I’ve had experience kind of working with some guys at previous places I’ve coached that were very similar in age,” Osborne said. “... If you care about them and they know you can help them get better, that’s what players are looking for regardless of age. We joke around and have a lot of different jokes.”

The coach added, “He’s a very mature guy. He comes to work every day ready to go. … Definitely a leader by example. It’s really good for the young guys to see that.”

The journey to Sacramento

Griffin-Isom was stationed in North Carolina for four years and spent three years at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside.

His three years serving in California opened his eyes. So much so, after he was done with his service with the Marines, he decided to enroll at Palomar Junior College in San Diego to play a sport he hadn’t touched in seven years.

After a standout season, he was ranked as one of the top junior college players in the country by 247Sports. It earned him a scholarship offer from Troy in Alabama.

The stop was short-lived. Some of the Troy coaching staff were fired midseason and the offense turned to the option, leaving Griffin-Isom without a role. He wasn’t sure if he would get another opportunity to play college football when he entered the NCAA Transfer Portal. A majority of athletes who enter the portal never leave and don’t find another place to play.

“I thought, ‘Am I going to get another offer?’” Griffin-Isom said. “I wasn’t showing anything and that’s a lot of gamble guys take when they enter the transfer portal.”

Griffin-Isom was contacted right away by Sacramento State.

Osborne and the rest of the Hornets coaching staff looked for an older wide receiver in the transfer portal for months before coming across Griffin-Isom. Sacramento State had interest in him coming out of the San Diego junior college in 2019. He was back on the market.

Within a day of committing to the Hornets, he was in a car on his way back out west.

“We were looking at the transfer portal for a long time, looking for someone we wanted to take in this class,” Osborne said. “I spent two or three months looking for that guy. … He was on board very quickly. It was a very quick decision for us that we wanted to add him to our team. He jumped on it very quickly.”

‘They mentor me, too’

Griffin-Isom is about 10 years older than some wide receivers on the Sacramento State roster.

And despite being the oldest guy in the room, he feeds off the youth and experience the players at his position bring.

“They mentor me, too,” Griffin-Isom said. “They’re fresh in the game so they’re a lot of things I’ve learned from them. As far as life goes, I take a lot of pride (in mentoring young players). I’ve been through a lot of things in my life and have seen a lot of things in my life.”

Griffin-Isom has an even younger person in his life to mentor. That would be his 7-year-old son Karlo, who lives across the country. The joy of his son watching him play football makes the journey of being one of the oldest players in college football worth it.

“One of the biggest things that I love for my son to see is his dad being really passionate about something,” Griffin-Isom said. “He has seen a lot of things I’ve done in the Marine Corps. Seeing his reaction and him watching me play football is one of the happiest moments of my life.”

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