Dallas Griffin: Investing in the present and future
The word "invest" can have various meanings depending on what situation it is used. Most would associate it with money, in the hopes that a return on an investment would become profitable. Some think about time invested, where the return is the satisfaction gained from that investment.
For Texas senior center Dallas Griffin, his entire college life has been about investing. Investing the hard work and effort it takes to become an Outland Trophy candidate and a starter on a Texas offensive line that has sent five players to the NFL over the past two seasons. Investing the time to visit the Children's Hospital of Austin on a regular basis or serve as a telephone operator for the Children's Miracle Network. All while spending his days and nights in the classroom learning about investing via his double major in Business Honors and Finance.
"My parents have always emphasized school and learning and I think that transferred into all areas of my life," said Griffin, who graduated with that double major last spring before enrolling in the Red McCombs MBA Program this fall. "They instilled the value of constantly learning and being a student of anything, which I think has helped me in both school and on the football field."
The Katy, Texas native came to UT in 2003 as a decorated high school player. He earned all-state honors for both his work on the field and in the classroom. Because of that, he expected that to carryover once he got to Austin. The transition in the classroom wasn't nearly as difficult as the one on the field, and the pressure to perform was much more apparent in football.
"When it comes to the classroom, you don't have the immediate pressure and consequences that you do on the football field," explained Griffin. "If I mess up on a paper or something like that, there are a few extra red marks and I can fix them, but if you mess up at practice or a game, you've got the coaching staff and 80,000 people looking right at you."
Griffin doesn't spend too much time dealing with extra red marks on his school work as evidenced by his 3.875 GPA, his three first-team Academic All-Big 12 selections and his nine UT Athletics Director's Honor Roll selections, but it did take him a while to get over the fear of making mistakes on the football field and allowing his talent and intelligence to take over.
"I had too many things going on in my head, and I just thought about what I needed to do to not make a mistake," said Griffin. "Through studying, repetition and performing in those high pressure environments, I've settled down, and now I just let my instincts take over. I'm also more aware of what the guys beside me are trying to get done, and now that I'm at that point, I feel like I can relax, play and not worry about making mistakes."
His new-found confidence is a necessity as Texas looks to replace three veteran starters across the offensive line.
"There are a lot of people depending on you," Griffin stated. "In school, you get an individual grade, but as a lineman, our success or failure is based on the unit. No one cares if you grade out high if the line as a whole doesn't perform. I feel like, as a center, it is my job to make sure I put the guys along the line in position to succeed."
From that standpoint, Griffin feels like the investments he made earlier in his career are allowing him to focus on the finer points of offensive line play that will help him throughout his senior year. His coach agrees.
"You have to have confidence before you can have success," said Mac McWhorter, UT's offensive line coach. "I've seen his confidence level grow recently. He's become a creature of great offensive line habits, and as a result, he did a great job of leading the offensive line through spring practice and fall camp."
He should see the fruits of his labor throughout the rest of his football career. In addition, he knows the process to get better as a football player will help him when he moves on to his next career, which Griffin expects to be in investments, specifically hedge funds.
Griffin got some first-hand experience of what life in the investment world will be like when he interned with a hedge fund company in Austin during the summer of 2006.
"You could see that once you left school, in that industry, the pressure was really on," stated Griffin. "It is a lot like football in the pressure sense, and if you don't do well with the investments, your backup is going to be in and you may never get back in the game. It is a very competitive environment."
Similar to offensive line play, Griffin explained how important it is to be on top of everything and be constantly learning when it comes to investing.
"The people I was working for are in the business of knowing everything about what they do," explained Griffin. "You get the opportunity to be a student of everything and I really enjoy learning, so that makes their job really appealing. You then use the knowledge you gain to help with the investments. If you are right, you can do pretty well, but if you aren't, it can be bad, and that is where the pressure comes in."
Including the amount of pressure, Griffin feels like the world of investments and football are very similar and the things he has gone through on the football field will help him once he gets a chance to start working on his own hedge fund.
"Playing center is about the closest parallel in sports that I know of to working on a hedge fund," stated Griffin. "I've got to know what my guards are doing, what the tackles are doing. I've even got to know what the receivers are doing. The more I know, the more effective we are going to be. It is the same thing with the fund managers I worked for this summer. They all have different areas of expertise that they constantly study and learn about. The better they are at working together with that knowledge, the more successful they are going to be."
There are several other similarities that Griffin believes will help him down the road.
"Things like discipline, being on time, dealing with pressure, working with others, juggling school, sports and family, things like that," said Griffin. "I think those are the things that employers will notice when I'm applying for jobs and will help me when I get into those positions.
"Something as simple as showing up at work at 7 a.m. is not a big deal because we train for football at 6 a.m.," added Griffin. "For a lot of people, getting anywhere at 7 a.m. can be tough, but it was just normal for me."
Through Griffin's investment of time, work and effort, the abnormal has become normal and the reward will be a senior football season full of promise, two degrees from Texas, a place in the Red McCombs School of Business and an unparalleled foundation for his career.
As in hedge funds, there are no guarantees, but Griffin's efforts have put him in the best possible position to see positive returns in all areas of his life.