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Snapshots in Belonging: Walking the Talk

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Most people would view Jeff Griffin ’00 as a motivational speaker.

But the 48-year-old says he thinks of himself as “more of a transformational speaker,” and Griffin still believes that his own body will be transformed someday. Ideally in a way that undoes some of the damage it suffered when he fell 40 feet while painting a barn.

“Every morning I wake up thinking, This is the day,” Griffin says. “I was paralyzed at 21, so I’ve been in a chair longer than out of a chair. But in my heart of hearts, I believe that I will walk and not faint, run and not be weary and have a full recovery.”

a White man in a gray zip up sweater leans against a desk. He is smiling and holding a Utah State basketball in his hands. To the left of his left elbow is a book reading "endless possibilities" which he wrote.
Jeff Griffin wanted to play football in college but an accident his freshman year left him paralyzed from the waist down. That has not slowed him down. Photo by Levi Sim.

“But,” Griffin adds. “I also figure I can’t wait for the walking to come to live my life. I’ve got to go there and live my life and focus on what I can do, instead of what I can’t do.”

While Griffin jokes that he “stuck the landing” after a ladder sitting on top of scaffolding gave way in 1995, the fall destroyed his L1 vertebra and he was paralyzed from the waist down. At the time, the North Logan native was a receiver at Ricks College who was determined to continue his football career at BYU.

Griffin’s accident greatly altered those dreams, and he ended up staying closer to home and graduating from Utah State, then worked in the banking industry for three years. When his enthusiasm for managing trusts waned, Griffin shifted his focus and spent the next 16 years teaching seminary and institute for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

During those years, Griffin, who is married with four children, became a standout wheelchair athlete, competing in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens in basketball, while also winning a national championship with the Utah Wheelin’ Jazz. He also spent time as the No. 1 wheelchair tennis player in Utah and won the St. George Marathon. And through a lot of hard work, Griffin was able to walk enough that, in 2019, he made his way to the top of Ben Lomond Peak with the assistance of 19 people.

In that same vein, Griffin greatly enjoys getting up out of his wheelchair at the end of his motivational presentations and walking across the stage.

“It provides an emotional impact that hopefully gives people who are listening and watching the belief and the motivation that, ‘If this guy who was paralyzed can get up and take a few steps, then perhaps I can get up and take a few steps towards the dreams and desires that I have,’” Griffin explains.

To share his experiences and the message behind the “gold nuggets” he has discovered during his life’s journey, Griffin started Griffin Motivation in 2017 and made 60 presentations around the country in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic altered his life once again as speeches were either canceled or moved to Zoom.

“I’ve had to practice what I preach these past few months,” he admits.

By Jeff Hunter ’96

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