(Photo by Adrian J. Hernandez / New Day Review)

ORLANDO, Fla. – To make the most of his final season at the University of Central Florida, redshirt senior linebacker Shaquem Griffin is taking a different, more hands-on approach to his final fall camp. Griffin is sleeping in the Wayne Densch Center instead of his own bed during the 2017 preseason.

“I’m staying the night in the Wayne Densch for the rest of the camp, so that’s kinda cool,” Griffin said after the team’s practice on July 27. “I went to go buy me a blow-up mattress and a little comforter, and I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna get the full experience of camp.’

“This my last one. So I’m the only one who be staying in the Wayne Densch and watching film and going to the weight room and do certain stuff and, you know, just get the full experience. Instead of going back and forth from home, I’m actually staying here for the entire camp.”

For Griffin, he believes that staying at the Wayne Densch Center gives him a head start in preparing for the upcoming season. The student-athlete facility, which is directly adjacent to Spectrum Stadium, the team’s indoor Nicholson Fieldhouse and the Knights’ practice fields, is also home to a weight room, athletic-training resources and film rooms.

“So my whole thing was I’ll go back and watch film and actually get ahead,” Griffin said. “And when we watch film again tomorrow, I already know what to expect. I already know my mistakes. And it’s good for me ‘cause I can lift weights more.”

Hoping to build off a season in which he had 20 tackles for loss and a conference-leading 11.5 sacks, Griffin is heeding the advice of coaches and eliminating all distractions from football. Being alone, Griffin said it allows him to focus.

“You know, I’m by myself; I’m able to think about just what I’m doing wrong and write my notes down and be able to talk to our coach about everything.” Griffin said. “And, you know, I think it kinda is a head start for me. I don’t have to just watch practice film. I can watch game film on our opponents and just get the whole feel.”

Even Griffin’s family was taken aback by his decision. Griffin’s brother and former UCF cornerback Shaquill Griffin and his parents persistently ask Griffin when he’s coming home.

“[Shaquill’s] always calling me, and he always in the house and talking about when you coming home, and I’m like, ‘I’m not coming home. I’m staying here.’” Griffin said. “And my parents just came up today. They wondered, ‘Where you at?’ ‘No, I’m staying at the Wayne Densch. I’m not coming home.’”

While staying at the Wayne Densch Center may be a head-scratching decision for some, for people who know Griffin, like Knights defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, Griffin’s choice was not hard to believe.

“It’s not surprising if you know the kid,” Chinander said after practice Friday. “I mean, he’s in here all the time anyways. I think it’s a little crazy. I’d probably go home and lay on my own pillow, but if that’s what he wants to do and if he thinks that gives him the edge, I’m all for it as long as he can get his rest and he’s ready to go.”

The reigning American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year made sure he didn’t go into this once-in-a-lifetime experience empty-handed. Before starting his extended sleepover, Griffin stocked up on essentials from Publix.

“I went to Publix. Got snacks, got water, Powerade, Pedialyte—everything I need just to be prepared for everything,” Griffin said. “Even got chips and sandwiches. I’m fine in there. When I get hungry, I just go make me a sandwich and drink some water, and I’m fine.”

Griffin’s first night sleeping in the Wayne Densch Center was frightening, but he quickly got over the fear.

“At first when I freaked out like, ‘Yo, it’s kinda scary. I’m by myself inside this big building,’” Griffin said. “But once I turned everything off and went to sleep and woke up, I was here. I could get some extra sleep. I’m walking around, coasting, talking to the janitor. It’s kinda cool. I’m wide awake by the time everybody gets here. You know, I’m getting extra sleep. It just feels good just to be here.”

With his time as a Knight is coming to an end, Griffin simply wants to make sure he soaks it all in.

“The whole thing was just to take everything in, you know?” Griffin said. “Once it’s gone, it’s over. I’m not getting this day back.”


For more on Griffin and his final season with the Knights, follow Ryan Weiss on Twitter at @NDR_RyanWeiss.