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Published: Thursday, 7/31/2008

Tebow could join Buckeyes' Griffin as double Heisman winner

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS - There are not many one-man clubs around. Eventually, somebody comes along and duplicates an accomplishment, matches a record, or just takes it away.

For the past 33 years, Ohio State's Archie Griffin has been the "only" player to "ever" win the Heisman Trophy twice. It is a necessary redundancy to group those words together while acknowledging Griffin's matched set of college football's highest award.

But in 2007, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win the Heisman, setting him up for possibly two shots at equaling or surpassing Griffin's long-standing mark. The Gators have been ranked as high as No. 1 in some of the early preseason magazines, so in his quest Tebow again will have the strong supporting cast.

Griffin, now the president of the Ohio State Alumni Association, said earlier this week that his profound respect for the award prevents him from either pulling for a second Heisman for Tebow, or hoping that the membership in the ultra-exclusive club of two-time winners remains at one

"I want the person who is deserving of winning the Heisman Trophy to win the Heisman Trophy," Griffin said. "I've always said that I'm sure somebody else will win it twice, so if this is the year and Tim Tebow deserves it, I'll be the first to congratulate him. I don't cheer or hope for it not to happen."

Since Griffin's second Heisman in 1975, 11 juniors have won the award, and set up the potential scenario for matching the Ohio State tailback's bookend Heismans. Some of those players left early for the NFL, and some just did not duplicate the dream-type season it takes to even have a chance at winning the prized statue.

"This could possibly be the year," Griffin said, "but each and every year presents different challenges. Tebow has to be the front-runner, having won it last year, and with the fact he is playing on an outstanding football team."

Griffin, who was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986, had 5,589 yards rushing in his career, and had a string of 31 straight 100-yard games in his OSU career. He played professionally for eight seasons before returning to Ohio State, where he has held a number of positions, including associate athletic director.

In his playing days, Griffin was regarded as possessing outstanding character as well as being a gifted athlete, qualities he shares with Tebow, and ones that Griffin said have to enhance Tebow's standing with the Heisman voters. During the three breaks Florida football players have had since spring ball, Tebow did mission work on three continents.

"Tebow is an outstanding young man who is doing terrific things," Griffin said. "I think people will give the Heisman Trophy to the person who they feel deserves to win it, but I think Tebow is the front-runner because of the way he is. His citizenship is admirable."

Griffin said Tebow and Florida coach Urban Meyer are likely aware of the off-the-field demands placed on the Heisman Trophy winner, an issue Ohio State coach Woody Hayes was very direct about when it became a distraction for Griffin.

"All the people that want a piece of him - that's the distraction Tebow has to deal with," Griffin said. "When I was going through that, Woody called me in and said 'you can't do everything for everybody, and all this stuff you are doing right now is going to make you soft.' When he told me that, it really, really hit a nerve."

The three-time All-American said that in this era of media saturation, Tebow's name is everywhere and winning the Heisman only added to his notoriety.

"Winning the Heisman, it does change things. At the time when Tebow came into college he was very well known, and now after winning the Heisman, the target is really on him," Griffin said.

"On the field, you are a marked man, people take a little extra

effort, and when they hit you, they hit a little harder, and they even make comments. He'll get quite a bit of that. We used to run that option play a lot at Ohio State, and whether I got the pitch or not, I got hit."

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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