By Mike Linn
A former Portales High School and Eastern New Mexico University football player died early Sunday morning in a car accident in Las Vegas, Nev.
Calvin Griffin, 19, played for Portales Rams football coach Glenn Johnson and graduated from Portales High in 2003.
He had recently moved to Las Vegas to live with his father and pursue a career in personal training, Johnson said.
Johnson described Griffin as one of the best linebackers he’s coached at the high school level in 23 years on the sidelines. Beyond his athletic ability, Johnson said Griffin was always respectful, had a tremendous attitude and led by example, rather than with words.
He said he got the call from Griffin’s mother, Portales resident Raquel Worten, early Sunday morning.
“It’s a sinking feeling in your heart when you lose a loved one. I’ve spent six years with the young man and seen him grow through the good things, the bad things … You don’t ever want to get that phone call,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Griffin died in a car wreck in his father’s van about 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning. He said Griffin was the only passenger of five not wearing a seat belt. The others escaped the wreck with minor injuries, Johnson said.
Attempts to reach officials with the Las Vegas Police Department were unsuccessful Sunday night.
Griffin was a redshirt freshman linebacker on Eastern’s football team last fall before leaving the program prior to season’s end, ENMU football coach Bud Elliott said.
“Calvin had some athletic ability. He was a personable kid … we really liked him and thought he had a chance of playing down the road,” Elliott said.
Griffin is the second person who played on ENMU’s football team to die in less than a year. Eric Hodgest, of Amarillo, also died in a car accident in October. Like Griffin, Hodgest was a redshirt freshman linebacker last season.
“It’s not a pleasant situation at all, particularly (when they died) in car accidents,” Elliott said.
Johnson said Sunday evening Worten was on her way to Las Vegas.
He said Griffin will be dearly missed, as the teen had many friends in Portales.
“He was just a joy to have around,” Johnson said. “He was an excellent young man. He was friends with everybody.”