CHATSWORTH, Ga. — Just when his football future looked the bleakest, Luke Griffin gambled on himself.
This week, the North Murray High School senior cashed in.
Griffin, once committed to the University of Georgia, found his Southeastern Conference home by committing to Missouri. His decision ended a journey in which the 6-foot-6, 290-pound lineman battled through a pair of knee injuries to regain his elite recruit status.
Griffin chose the Tigers over interest from Coastal Carolina, Florida, Florida International, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Griffin is rated as a three-star recruit, the No. 41 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 57 recruit in the state of Georgia for the 2019 signing class by 247Sports.com.
"It's been a heck of a ride," said Griffin, who plans to make his commitment official and binding during the early signing period that starts Dec. 19. "To being committed my freshman year to Georgia and tearing both my ACLs to getting back fully into the swing of things. I had a really good senior year, and it feels great to commit back into the SEC.
"I am very grateful to be able to commit to Missouri. I took a visit this past weekend over there and just fell in love with it and with the coaches. I didn't want to miss the opportunity of fulfilling my dream of playing in the SEC."
Griffin committed to Georgia in summer 2016, between his freshman and sophomore years, becoming the Bulldogs' first commitment for the 2019 class when Mark Richt was still their coach. But a lot happened after that, with Georgia changing coaches as Kirby Smart replaced Richt after the 2015 season and Griffin injuring each of his knees — one during his sophomore basketball season and the other late in his junior football season.
He decommitted from Georgia in April, and while big-time recruiting interest had started to die down after his injuries, he turned things around with a dominant senior year in which he graded out at better than 90 percent for the season on offense in addition to leading Mountaineers defensive linemen in tackles for loss.
"When you think about the last three years, he's gone through a lot with the two knee surgeries and battling his weight earlier in his career to get back to this year where he was a dominating player," North Murray coach Preston Poag said. "He's such a good kid, a great character kid who works hard. He's going to do special things at Missouri."
The Tigers are in their third year under coach Barry Odom, having gone 4-8 in 2016, 7-6 last year and 8-4 this season with one game remaining. They'll face Oklahoma State (6-6) in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 in Memphis.
Part of Missouri's pitch to Griffin was a chance to compete for playing time right away.
"I am going in with the mindset of playing early and not sitting, and that is very exciting," he said. "I've played tackle my whole life, but when I go in I will fight for whatever position they have a need. I am open to switching to wherever it benefits the team the most."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.