Derrick Griffin Overcomes Obstacles

Great-Grandmother Raised Star Athlete

ROSENBERG, Texas - He's one of the most-sought after recruits who excels in football and basketball, but his journey has been anything but ordinary.

Derrick Griffin is a 6 foot 7 wide receiver at Rosenberg Terry High School. Both big name college football and basketball programs are recruiting the young athlete.

In a story that reads similar to Michael Oher's, the Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle who is the subject of the book and the movie, "The Blind Side," Griffin moved with his two brothers and a sister to his great-grandmother's house ten years ago.

Ozel Grunswald, who family members call "Aya," met her grandchildren on a few occasions before when she received a phone call saying all four needed a home.

"Derrick was nine and the youngest was six-months old. Here come all these babies; three of them in Pampers because they hadn't been trained," Grunswald said.

"There were a lot of things Derrick had to erase from his mind. I had to let him, 'Know you are not a man; you can relax and be a child,'" she added.

People who know Griffin said he is quiet and slow to smile around strangers, but when he talks about his great-grandmother, his eyes light up and he even breaks a giant smile.

"It feels like I was made to come there. I belong there. It feels normal, like my momma and my great-grandmomma all mixed together," Griffin said.

Coach Tim Teykl told Local 2 that keeping Griffin on track is not always easy, but with Aya's tough love and strict rules, the young athlete is learning what he needs in the classroom and on the field, much like Oher.

"He didn't like school. He didn't enjoy it. Didn't want to go to school because it wasn't comfortable, wasn't easy like sports was," Teykl said.

"But he has come a country mile in the maturity and to understand that, 'Hey, you know I can either work at McDonald's and fry the burgers and do the bathrooms and clean the floors and there is nothing wrong with that, or maybe if I take care of my business, maybe I can manage one [McDonald's] or own one,"" Teykl added.

Like many of the adults who cross paths with Griffin and Grunswald, Teykl has gotten sucked into the Cinderella story in the making.

"You find a kid getting raised by a great-grandmother two generations removed, and you get to meet her because she needs to talk to you about grades or behavior in a classroom, not because of what he is doing on the field, that touches your heart," Teykl said .

"There is tough love and she is not afraid to dish out tough love," he added.

Grunswald's approach has worked, as the 69-year-old has raised houseful after houseful of kids, grand kids, and now great-grand kids. She told Local 2 she has so much experience raising children that they are not going to get away with any kind of "foolishness."

"I tell them, 'I keep you to go to school.' I am real firm about that," Grunswald said . "You are going to get your education. If I am losing my time, this is how it has to be."

"You don't go to school to play around, and you respect your teacher. That is paying me back because you are getting your education," she said.

With the help of Teykl and the teachers at Rosenberg Terry High School, Grunswald told Local 2 she is helping Griffin find his way. The proof their efforts are paying off can be found in a giant basket in the living room, filled with recruiting letters from colleges like Notre Dame, Duke and nearby Texas A&M.

It is a future Grunswald has dreamed of for the boy she is helping mold into a man.

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