Kevin Gorman: Trey Griffey trying to make name for himself with Steelers
Trey Griffey smiled as he watched Antonio Brown playfully interact with his young sons after a Steelers OTA session.
The boys wanted to wear their father's helmet and insisted on his jersey when he needed the helmet.
That took Griffey back to his childhood memories of watching his father play in the major leagues.
"I remember how important it was just to be around my dad," Trey said of his father, Ken Griffey Jr. "I wanted to be like my dad. It's an unbelievable feeling to see your dad be a professional athlete."
Even more unbelievable for George Kenneth Griffey III is that he's a professional athlete himself, playing wide receiver for the Steelers.
That his career has come full circle with his family, practicing at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side — about 30 miles from Donora, the birthplace of his father and grandfather — isn't lost on Trey.
He's embracing everything about the blue-collar ethos of a town that produced Ken Griffey, who starred on Cincinnati's Big Red Machine in the 1970s, despite playing a different sport.
Junior was a 13-time All-Star who hit 630 home runs and won 10 Gold Gloves over a 22-year Hall-of-Fame career with the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox. The Mariners drafted Trey in the 24th round in 2016, paying homage to his father's uniform number before his induction.
Baseball runs in the Griffey bloodlines, but so does football. Ken Sr. played at Donora and Junior at Cincinnati Moeller, and Trey found it to be his first love. He gave up baseball before high school, and it paid off with a record-setting senior season at Orlando's Dr. Phillips High School.
"Everybody has a love for something ... and I have a love for football," Trey said. "Me and my dad talked about it and he said, 'You have a love for football, and I could see that from a young age. I'll always support you.' He was never like, 'You have to play baseball.' He was a father, supporting his son with whatever choice I was making and leading me down the right path."
An undrafted free agent out of Arizona, Griffey had stints with the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins before signing a reserve/futures contact with the Steelers on Jan. 29.
Griffey grew up around a Hall of Fame father but is excited about catching passes from Ben Roethlisberger and learning from Brown, a pair of players ticketed for Canton.
"It's unbelievable," Trey said. "You see everything that Ben does, just coming in and making sure everybody knows what they're doing, a great leader on the team.
"If you follow 'AB' on any type of social media, he's on there posting something where he's working out. He's unbelievable, taking care of his body, and I believe that's why he's had the career he's had, always working on his craft. Just learning from the top receiver in the NFL is something you can't take for granted. I'm soaking it in."
The 6-foot-3, 192-pound Griffey remains a long shot, but he's a big, strong receiver who can catches passes over the middle and is eager to play special teams. Staying healthy has been the biggest issue of his career.
Meanwhile, he has impressed teammates with his humble attitude and willingness to ask questions of and learn from veterans like Brown and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
"You can tell that there's a transition period, just as with any young player, learning the offense and you can tell that they're thinking," Steelers quarterback Landry Jones said. "Whenever he gets it, he'll be an asset, and he'll have a chance."
What Griffey wants most is to make a name for himself in his own sport instead of being known as The Kid's kid. That's not only his dream but his father's wish as well.
"I'm always seen as my dad's son, definitely," Trey said. "My dad always told me, 'I want to be known as Trey Griffey's dad. I had my time when I was playing.' That's something that, when you hear that from your dad, you're like, 'Wow.' With his track record, all of the awards and going to the Hall of Fame, for him to say something like that is amazing."
What would be more amazing is if Trey can bring his own kids to tag along at practice someday, in awe of their famous father.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.