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Former Marshall football star ministering in Virginia

By TIM STEPHENS, The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 338 pounds, Nate Griffin commands parishioners’ attention simply by walking to the pulpit.

The former Marshall University offensive tackle and current minister, though, doesn’t brag about his considerable football exploits. He accomplished plenty from 2000 through 2004 with the Thundering Herd. Griffin prefers to discuss God and the miracles he has performed in the big man’s life. One of those devine works was the birth of daughter Nehemiah, a soon-to-be first grader.

Griffin and wife Ebony were told they had a “single digits” chance to conceive. The more they tried, the greater the treatments they underwent, the more frustrated they became.

“Then God led us to plant a church,” said Griffin, who ministers in the Tidewater area of Virginia. “We decided to focus on family and ministry and on what God was saying. We took the focus off us and put it on Him.”

The result was a booming ministry and a peaceful family. And a baby. The couple gave their son, Matthiew, a sister.

“It was just a miracle,” Griffin said. “I was grateful for the experience. It tested our faith and developed our story. We believe God is able, even if he didn’t give us a baby, he was still God.”

The Griffins are set to send Nehemiah to elementary school as they see Matthiew off to college at Norfolk State University where the 6-4, 330-pound defensive end will play football.

Griffin, who also is a therapeutic counselor, who went into ministry with what he called help from God and an assist from Ebony. A member of Marshall’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle, Griffin said he was influenced by FCA’s leaders while a student-athlete. Ebony, though, gave him the push into ministry.

“I told her I’d like to go to seminary,” Griffin said of Ebony, an elementary school principal with a Masters degree from Regent University. “She brought me an application to seminary at Regent. The next thing I know, I’m in seminary. My goal wasn’t to become a pastor, but to learn more about Jesus, but God had a plan for us.”

Griffin returns to Huntington about once a year, usually for a ministry event. He hasn’t attended a Marshall football game in several years, but hopes to change that soon.

Griffin said he misses his teammates and others at Marshall more than playing.

“That was a special group,” Griffin said of the people who influenced him through campus ministry and in the locker room. “Early on, I did miss playing, but I’m old enough now for my body to do different things. I never dream about what happened on the field, but about being in the locker room with the guys, about running out of that tunnel, the bus trips. For a long time after I graduated, when August came around, the grass had a different smell to it because it was football season.”

Griffin said he has learned from a visit to Israel to live in the moment, not looking back nor ahead often. He does, though, stay in touch with many former teammates, including his cousin Marcus Hairston. Griffin mentioned several others, including Reggie Hayes Toriano Brown, Ricardo Phillips, Paul Sinclair, Marlon Hicks, Josh Davis, Roberto Terrell, Darius Watts, Roger Garrett, Marcus Fitzgerald and Gladstone Coke. He also mentioned Bishop Charles Shaw, Rev. Bob Bondurant, Shonda Stanton and others.

“They’re all part of the gift and beautiful tapestry of my life,” Griffin said.