Archie Griffin Ohio State Legend

I just now got the Big 10 Network at my house this past week. Now, we have the SEC Network, the Pac 12 Network, the Longhorn Network and the Big 10 Network. The ACC needs to get it in gear and get their own Network, and I don’t see the Big 12 being around much longer, honestly. It’s all about money, and the reason why TCU and Baylor did not make the playoffs last season was money. Let’s just be honest, here.

Watching some of the Big 10 Network, I got a glimpse of a short program about Ohio State’s Archie Griffin. I had forgotten just how good that Archie Griffin was.

Archie Griffin is still the only 2 time winner of the Heisman Trophy.

Griffin was a hometown guy, growing up in Columbus, Ohio. His father, James, was a hard working man sometimes having as many as three jobs at a time to support his family. Being the father of 7 children means lots of bills, but James Griffin did his best to provide.

There were 7 boys in the Griffin family and a girl. You would think that Archie would have been a standout athlete all of his life, but that may not have been the case because the other kids in school made fun of him for being a fat kid. They called him such names as Tank, or Butterball.

In high school, Archie Griffin apparently knew that he had to transform his body if he was going to make a good football player and spent considerable time in the weight room. Maybe he got that work ethic from his Dad or his Mom, I do not know. But, he clearly had it.

Since he was slightly chubby as a kid, I have seen stories that he was a lineman. The team’s Fullback didn’t show up for a game and the head coach moved Archie to Fullback and he remained in the backfield the rest of his life.

Archie was short at about 5 foot 8 inches tall, and he was not very heavy weighing in at about 180 pounds. Even though he rushed for over a 1,000 yards during his junior season, and he topped that as a senior running for a really nice 1,739 yards and 29 Touchdowns. Even though he led his team to the city championship, not many colleges wanted Archie Griffin due to his lack of size.

He was, however, an excellent student and was being recruited by Northwestern and that was supposedly his heavy favorite.

When Ohio State coaching legend Woody Hayes found out that Archie Griffin was interested in Northwestern and had the grades to get into that school, coach Hayes came calling.

Archie Griffin decided on staying home and played for the Ohio State Buckeyes where he was and he is and he always will be a legend. When a guy my age thinks of Ohio State football, one of the first things that comes to mind is Archie Griffin. The first and only guy to win two back to back Heisman Trophies.

Freshmen football players had never been eligible for college varsity play in any time other than around World War II when a lot of exceptions were made, naturally.

Archie Griffin signed with Ohio State University in the Spring of 1972 and that was the first year that freshmen were eligible to play major college football.

Never mind any rule changes, Woody Hayes still didn’t want to play a freshman in one of his key positions on his prized offense.

Archie said his goal as a freshman in 1972 was just making the varsity.

Not only did he make the varsity, he became the face of Ohio State.

Griffin had already shown that he had the work ethic required when he transformed himself as a high school player from fat to fit. Again, he worked hard enough to gain a position on the depth chart at Ohio State.

In the Buckeyes first game, Archie got in the game and he fumbled his first carry. Everybody thought Archie would be punished by limiting his playing time and he was probably a little down because he thought Woody Hayes wouldn’t look at him again.

But, the following week against North Carolina,  Archie Griffin ran for 239 yards which was a single game rushing record for Ohio State.

That was his 2nd game at Ohio State as a true freshman and a springboard for his career. One can shrug off that record setting performance in his second college game if you like because it was against North Carolina. But, the Tar Heels under Bill Dooley were 11-1 in 1972 with their only loss being to Ohio State, obviously. They were a solid football team that won the Atlantic Coast Conference that season.

Archie Griffin went from fat child to a starter as a true freshman on a major college football team and for Woody Hayes who was a man that really loved to run the football.

As a sophomore in 1973, Griffin really took off. Griffin had working class roots, was a great student and kid, and he was full of spunk and desire to succeed on the football field and off. He was not

flashy or showy, and he was just perfect for Woody Hayes. He was a little guy with big confidence.

He had a great sense of balance and great moves where he could make at least one tackler miss on every play.

In 1973, Archie ran for over 100 yards in the Buckeyes first 9 games.

He also broke his own school rushing record with 246 yards against Iowa. Griffin finished 5th in the Heisman voting his sophomore year. I wrote about the Heisman voting results here: 1973 Heisman Race

In the Buckeyes last game of the season against Michigan they tied 10 to 10 and Archie broke 100 yards for 10th straight time. Michigan and Ohio State tied for the Big 10 championship in 1973 and the Buckeyes were voted into the Rose Bowl in a controversial decision.

If not for this tie, Ohio State probably would have been hands down national champions because they really hammered the Trojans of USC and looked fantastic doing it. Notre dame beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and was awarded the national championship.

Archie broke 100 again for the 11th straight time with 149 yards rushing as the Buckeyes stomped USC.

On the 1973 season Griffin had a total of 1,577 yards rushing and 7 Touchdowns and he was just getting started.

 

Coming off that huge Rose Bowl win over USC, the Buckeyes were confident going into the 1974 season and it was Archie Griffin’s junior year.

Griffin was voted team captain as a junior and seniors usually got elected captain at Ohio State in those years. His teammates loved him. Again, he ran for over 100 yards in every game and his streak had grown to 23 straight games of over the century mark in rushing. There was great pride among his teammates and particularly his Offensive Line that he was going to get his yardage.

 

Opponents defenses were set to stop Archie and they didn’t get it done. The Buckeyes were 8-0 and ranked number 1 in the country, but they were upset by Michigan State 16-13.

They bounced back to beat Michigan in their last game. Michigan was ranked 3rd but the Ohio State Buckeyes won 12-10 and earned their 3rd straight Rose Bowl berth. Griffin had 1,695 yards on the year and 12 Touchdowns and easily won his first Heisman Trophy. I wrote about the 1974 Trophy here: 1974 Heisman Voting

 

The Buckeyes were upset by USC, if you can call it that, in the Rose Bowl, 18-17. That was a heartbreaking loss for them.

 

They say that Archie Griffin didn’t practice a lot his senior season because he needed to recover during the week from being so beat up. Every opponent knew that Archie was going to be Ohio State’s offense in his senior year of 1975.

But, that did not stop him from continuing his amazing streak of 100 yard games.  Archie ran for 1,450 yards as a senior and won the Heisman Trophy again. Looking back, there were a few candidates that might could have taken the Trophy from him and you can read about that here: Griffin repeats

The Buckeyes were ranked number one in the country when they went into the Rose Bowl and they were shocked by UCLA, 10 to 23, and they finished out their season at 11-1 and ranked number 4. The Bruins were the first and only team in 3 years to hold Griffin to under 100 yards rushing and he finished with only 93.

The Ohio State Buckeyes were 40-5-1 during Archie Griffin’s playing career.

Archie Griffin and Brian Cushing of later USC days are the only 2 football players to start in 4 Rose Bowls.

Griffin also finished with a record setting 5,589 career rushing yards and an NCAA record 31 straight  100 yard games. Some teams the Buckeyes played were game planning on stopping Griffin and nobody really got it done.

Archie Griffin’s rushing record lasted only one year as the great and legendary Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh broke it the following season. That record lasted for 22 seasons before Ricky Williams of Texas broke it. Ironically, Williams’ new record, just like Archie Griffin’s, lasted only one season as Ron Dayne of Wisconsin broke it in 1999.

Ohio State coaching legend Woody Hayes said it best about Archie Griffin and this is widely known. Woody said “He was a better young man than he was a football player, and he was the best football player I have ever seen.”

I remember Woody saying that and it’s been repeated many times by many sources. That said a lot about Archie Griffin’s character.

The Griffin family had 7 sons and a daughter. All 7 sons played college football and 3 of them played in the NFL. Archie was the 24th pick of the 1st round by the Cincinnati Bengals.

He was something of a bust in the NFL as a 1st rounder, but he did stick around with the Bengals for 7 years and rushed for just under 3,000 yards.

 

Whatever Archie Griffin did in the NFL is really irrelevant regarding who he is as a person and a football player.

The one and only two time Heisman Trophy will always be a college football legend.

5 thoughts on “Archie Griffin Ohio State Legend

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