SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Geoff Petties loves to tell the story about the first time he saw Kody Griffis play football.
It was during a road trip in Griffis' freshman year at South Tahoe High School, the first season for Petties, an assistant, and head coach Louis Franklin.
The varsity team and coaching staff arrived shortly after Griffis and the underclass Vikings were already playing.
"I'm waiting for our game and I'm watching the smallest guy on the field going after the biggest guys, he was fearless," Petties said. "I told Coach (Franklin) he's going to be a stud if he puts on a few more pounds. Senior year, he came into form."
Petties' prediction was spot on.
Griffis has dreamed about playing college football since he was 5. After enjoying a monster final year in high school, next fall the receiver/defensive back will realize that dream.
Griffis signed his National Letter of Intent Thursday, March 7, in the high school's strength and conditioning room to extend his football career and receive higher education from Presentation College in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Presentation is a private school with about 800 students. It is a member of both the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and North Star Athletic Association (NSAA).
Griffis has received academic and athletic scholarships, and hopes to receive more, that covers more than half of the $31,000 tuition.
He plans to study economics and finance.
"I'm super excited," Griffis said. "I started playing in Pop Warner. I made a lot of friends, kept playing and stuck with it. It's a little far away, but I'm excited to live on my own and do my own thing. I just want to play football as long as I can."
Griffis had other offers, including from Petties' former school Eastern Oregon University.
But after one visit to Aberdeen, and the winter dome he'll be practicing in when the temperatures become harshly cold, January and February average about 14 degrees, he felt right at home.
"Once there, I loved the town, the school and the coaches," Griffis said. "The team seems like it will be good the next few years. It just all flowed and it became an easy decision. It snows there, but not like it does here."
Griffis in his freshman season, on the junior varsity team, was listed at 5-foot-5, 120 pounds.
Four years after Everett Goldberg, the school's Career Technical Education Exercise Science teacher who oversees the strength and conditioning for all the school's teams, got a hold of him, Griffis was listed at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds in his senior year.
"Thanks to Everett, he put on about 40 pounds of muscle and is super strong," said Petties, who coaches the receivers. "He's still a little undersized for your prototypical NFL wide receiver, but the way the game has evolved, I think size is less of a factor. He plays with a tenacity that is almost unbeatable. He's got that, 'kill or be killed' mindset."
He is now similar in size to New England Patriots Julian Edelman who just caught 10 passes from Tom Brady in this past Super Bowl.
"He has a low center of gravity and the low man always wins," said Franklin, who has helped open the doors for a handful of athletes in his four seasons at South Tahoe to reach the next level. "He puts himself in good positions and he likes to be physical."
Griffis loves catching passes, he hauled in 74 passes for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns this past season in eight and a half games, but he loves making a devastating block even more.
Griffis was first in yards receiving per game and second in the state in yards and touchdowns, to a receiver who played in four more games.
In his last two games of the season, he caught 30 passes for 365 yards and seven touchdowns. He made a career-high 17 receptions against North Valleys and scored four touchdowns in the Vikings only win of the season against Dayton. He recorded his season high in yardage (232) against Elko.
Griffis has out-worked his teammates since Pop Warner and Franklin says it will be that same path to succeed in college.
"He has to stay who he is," Franklin said. "He has excelled by playing with great effort and attitude. It will be the same recipe for him in college. He will work hard and he will be great."
Griffis said he credits Petties and Franklin for helping him develop into one of the best receivers in the state, especially Petties who has worked with him closely over the past couple of seasons.
"They've always supported me," Griffis said. "They told me to keep working like I do now, which is pretty hard. But it's not over. I'm not done what I want to do."