In Their Words appears Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Ohio State football icon Archie Griffin shared some of his thoughts with Blade sports writer Matt Markey.
Archie Griffin has long been the most-prized ambassador for Ohio State's prolific football program. Legendary Buckeyes coach Wood Hayes simply called Griffin "the greatest player I ever coached."
Not only was Griffin the sole two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy (1974, 1975), college football's most prestigious award, but he also helped Ohio State win four Big Ten Conference championships, and is the only player ever to start in four Rose Bowl games. He was also a very durable combination of power, balance and speed, which allowed Griffin to put together a streak of 31 straight 100-yard rushing games.
Griffin's 5,589 rushing yards and 924 carries make him the Ohio State career leader in both categories by a wide margin. He averaged 121.5 yards rushing a game in his 46 career games with the Buckeyes.
Griffin, 53, signed with the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL as a first-round draft pick after graduating a quarter early with a degree in industrial relations. Griffin served as a co-captain and played with the Bengals for eight seasons.
He returned to Ohio State in 1984, and worked at several positions in the upper hierarchy of the athletic department before taking on his current role as president and CEO of the Ohio State University Alumni Association in January, 2004.
"I DO FEEL blessed that I've been able to stay close to the university once my playing career ended. I always said that I was born to be a Buckeye, so it just made a lot of sense I would come home once I was done playing. Being back here has been wonderful because I've had a chance to follow the great players and teams we've had. I just have so much appreciation for our university and I think I'm lucky to have a chance to still be affiliated with it.
"THERE ARE A lot of great memories. Certainly the memories of winning four Big Ten championships and never losing at Ohio Stadium are great things to recall. Our 42-21 Rose Bowl win over USC is also a great memory since it was our only win in that [Rose Bowl] game. But, perhaps my best memory is of the game I played my freshman year against North Carolina when I rushed for 239 yards. It was just so memorable because heading into that game I was fifth on the depth chart and I never thought I'd have a chance to play. To get out there and have a game like that was a great feeling.
"I GET OVER to practice periodically but I don't have many regular interactions with players when they are playing. I think [Ohio State head coach] Jim Tressel and his staff do a wonderful job of providing guidance for their players.
"THERE'S NO QUESTION the passion and excitement our fans have for Ohio State football continually amazes me. It really is a special thing. In my current role as president and CEO of the Ohio State University Alumni Association I have a lot of opportunities to interact with alumni and fans, and no matter what time of year it is, they always want to talk Buckeye football. I've been all over the world and wherever I go it seems I can find someone who wants to talk about our Buckeyes.
"ESSENTIALLY, IN MY current role I provide leadership and set the agenda for our alumni association. We are striving to be the biggest and best alumni organization in the world, and right now we're not there. Trying to attain that status drives so many of the things we do here. Every day I come into our office trying to find ways to better serve our members, grow our membership, and just get better. I think that's a charge that any organization worth its salt should pursue. Being the best should be what anyone wants.
"IT'S AN AMAZING thing [game days in Columbus]. Really it is. The traditions, the fans, and the game all combine to make fall Saturdays truly special. I mean, I've been attending games here for a long, long time, but those Saturdays never get old. I still get the same thrills watching script Ohio today as I did the first time I saw it. Plus, as I mentioned before, our fans have such great passion for our football team. That really sets the table and makes it special. The fans and alumni are what make our game day experience so unique.
"I DO GET a chance to see many of my former college teammates on a fairly regular basis. I actually just saw Pete Johnson, who I played with here and with the Cincinnati Bengals, a few weeks ago when he was inducted into the Men's Varsity O Hall of Fame. Pete's a great guy and hasn't changed from the guy I knew back when. And there's no question that the experience of playing college football provides a special bond. We share a lot of experiences that few people get a chance to be a part of in their lives. Playing in Ohio Stadium for a guy like Woody Hayes is something that I feel fortunate to have happened to me in my life. I'd say my teammates feel the same, and it's great to see them and talk old times when we have the chance.
"IT'S INCREDIBLY HARD today to get to the top of college football, probably much harder than it was in my day. In that era the top programs could just stockpile all of the top players, so you almost had an exclusive club at the top of college football. With scholarship limitations that isn't the case any more. The talent is spread out much more evenly around the country, which is why you see programs like South Florida, Boise State, Cincinnati, and others able to compete at the highest level. I think it's a good thing, though, because it's really allowed the popularity of college football to prosper. Everyone has a chance at the golden ring. I also think it's a testament to the work Jim Tressel has done at Ohio State. He's kept our program at a consistently high level in his time here and that's something that's very difficult to do in this day and age.
"I DON'T HAVE a lot of hands-on interaction with the football program these days. As I mentioned, I do get the practice periodically, but I have my hands full with my responsibilities at the alumni association. Of course, whenever Jim calls and asks me to do anything with the program I most certainly will do it, but my role is more focused on our alumni at this stage of my life.
"I HAD No idea [how playing at Ohio State would change my life] and I feel incredibly fortunate that so many people have fond memories of my time here at Ohio State. I always say that I'm amazed people still have these fond remembrances of me, because it's been more than 30 years since I last suited up for the Buckeyes. But really, it's just another example of how special our alumni and fans are. They love this team and the players who are a part of the tradition. I think I'm very lucky to be a small part of that great tradition."
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