Former Ashland University cornerback Michael Griffin will the start of his post-Eagle football career in Japan, as he will play the 2018 season in the semi-pro X-League for the Nojima Sagamihara Rise.
"Over Christmas break, I got a phone call from Coach K (Ashland defensive graduate assistant coach Kyohei Kosaka), and he just asked me if it is something I would be interested in," Griffin said. "I said, 'Why not?' When that opportunity came up, I told him I'd at least be interested in trying out and going over there.
"So, over spring break…I worked out for two days and stayed over there for a week, did some sightseeing. Had a great time meeting all the players and the coaching staff. I got offered when I got back, and I decided to accept it."
As a senior in 2017, Griffin recorded 47 total tackles (37 solo), a half-tackle for loss, an interception and a team-high 10 pass breakups. A two-year starter for the Eagles, Griffin earned first-team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors last fall.
The X-League, founded in 1971, has 18 teams, split into three six-team divisions. The regular season is shorter than that of the X-League's North American counterparts (six games), and is followed by the postseason.
By rule, American players in the X-League are sparse, but one recognizable Rise player in 2017 was quarterback Devin Gardner, formerly of the University of Michigan.
Griffin said he will go to Japan in June to prepare for the fall season.
"I'm not sure I am going to learn any (Japanese), because when I went over there, what was surprising to me was a lot of people do speak English…so I was able to communicate well enough," Griffin said. "I was able to get the concepts of the drills and the plays.
"It will be an experience, for sure."
As far as Kosaka's assistance in this process, Griffin said, "I can't even begin to explain how grateful I am to Coach K. He didn't have to do any of this. This is just him trying to help me out, trying to help Ashland…trying to create a connection."
As for what could be in store following the X-League season, Griffin isn't looking ahead to potential opportunities in 2019 in the National Football League, Canadian Football League, the Arena Football League or the newly-formed Alliance of American Football.
"I'm just going over there with the mindset of focusing on helping the team out, and doing whatever I can to help them win," said Griffin. "I'm not really looking forward to the future."