Chernoff stars during kickoff, punt returns for Mesa State

Griffin Chernoff, right, sprints past defenders during a return this season. Chernoff has added a spark to Mesa State’s special teams unit.

Griffin Chernoff freely admits a person has to be a little crazy to return punts and kicks.

The Mesa State College sophomore football player isn’t the only one who thinks he is at least somewhat crazy.

“He used to be a crazy kid,” Mesa State senior linebacker Ryan Kadavy said. “He and my brother would always be in trouble, it seemed like.”

Chernoff (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) grew up in Greeley and attended school with Kadavy’s younger brother, Kyle from pre-school thorough high school.

“Ryan was like a big brother to me,” Chernoff said.

The older Kadavy, who leads the Mavs in tackles, helped bring Chernoff and Kyle Kadavy to Mesa State as well.

“I remember coming, visiting campus and watching games,” Chernoff said. “Ryan got me in with the coaches.”

Now, the three of them are attending Mesa State and playing a significant role for the Mavericks (2-2, 2-0 RMAC), who host Fort Lewis for homecoming at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Stocker Stadium. As part of the homecoming festivities, the wrestling team is having a steak and crab feast and trading cards of the Mesa State players will be available.

Chernoff started making his mark on the team last year returning kicks and punts.

“Coming to a smaller program, you think you’re ready to jump into the collegiate level,” Chernoff said.

“You’ve got to find your niche. In college, you’ve got to know you’re Xs and Os. Luckily, I got an opportunity with punt and kick return.

“I did it in high school. It’s exhilarating. You’ve got to be kind of crazy. I don’t think about it. I just go do it.”
Chernoff did well enough to earn All-RMAC honorable mention as a return specialist last year. He returned 15 kicks for an average of 20.6 per attempt with a long of 44 and 27 punts for an average of 12.3 with a long of 48.

Instead of basking in his success, he stayed in Grand Junction for the summer working on becoming a better wide receiver.

“I didn’t grasp the offense too well last year,” Chernoff said. “It took me a year to develop.

“I didn’t want to go back home (for the summer). I wanted to stay here and work with the quarterbacks and coach (Jon) Boyer. Working with Phil (Vigil) running routes all summer long helped a bunch.”

Now, Chernoff is making an impact not only returning kicks and punts, but catching the ball — even if it means going across the middle of the field.

“He’ll go across the middle,” Kadavy said. “He’s not scared of anything. He’s a scrappy little guy. It’s good to have him and my brother here.”

Chernoff leads the team with 15 receptions for 241 yards and one touchdown. He had a career-high five catches for 99 yards to spark the Mavericks’ come-from-behind victory over New Mexico Highlands two weeks ago.

“Griffin has been a pleasant surprise,” Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno said. “He worked out every day in the summer. He has tremendous speed. He is a great-natured kid. Coach (Donnie) Holmes has done good things getting him rolling.

“He has so much better concentration. He’s honed his game and is more disciplined. He takes care of the football. He’s growing with the system.”


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