Archie Griffin: ‘I still kind of get choked up’
The memories the two-time Heisman Trophy winner made within Ohio Stadium changed his life forever, he tells Aaron Marshall ’15 MA, a longtime aide and friend.
For Archie, the memories grow thicker in the early 1970s when he starred for the Buckeyes, playing in 24 home games without a loss. He knows by heart the day in Ohio Stadium that changed his life forever: September 30, 1972.
“It was the most exciting game I ever played in. Period,” he says of the second game of his freshman year. The Buckeyes were playing North Carolina. “I had no idea I would get into that football game. All I really remember when it started out was my number was being called, and I was running with the ball.”
Archie smiles recalling Steve Luke ’75 — a safety who later became his roommate — urging him on. “He kept saying, ‘Run like you’ve never before. Run like you’ve never run before.’ It’s funny the things you remember.”
Archie’s appearance (and performance) in that game also surprised North Carolina’s defense, as the bow-legged freshman from Columbus Eastmoor left the field that day with the Ohio State single-game rushing record of 239 yards. Not bad for a guy who up until then had fumbled his first and only carry of the season and wasn’t even on the Tarheels’ scouting report.
The memories of the game that launched his amazing collegiate career are bookended by an emotional farewell on November 15, 1975, as Archie and his fellow seniors played their last game in Ohio Stadium. As the clock wound down, Coach Woody Hayes took the seniors out of the game one by one.
“It was special to see all of the people in the stadium clapping for the seniors. That senior class never lost a game in the stadium,” he says. “I still get kind of choked up when I think about that. I remember Woody stepping out on the field a little bit and shaking each of our hands. I really admire the way he did that.
“There are a lot of places that mean a lot to me, but Ohio Stadium was huge for me because of the way things happened and the magnitude of being in this place and playing in front of 80-some-thousand people.
“It’s like something you dream of that you never expect to come true, but it did — it really did happen,” says Archie, who — after seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals — went on to work 19 years in Athletics and serve 11 years as president of the alumni association. “This is certainly one of the most memorable places I’ll ever have.”
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Before we leave, I mention that as Ohio Stadium turns 100, the Griffin family’s tie to Ohio State football marks its 50th year. Along with Archie and brothers Ray and Duncan, other family members — his sons, Andre and Adam, and nephew Kevin — all have played for the Buckeyes.
This fall, the seventh Griffin will play in the ’Shoe when Archie’s grandson, Diante, slips on a Buckeye jersey at defensive back. “It’s going to be fun watching Diante,” says his famous grandfather. “He’s a walk-on, so he’ll have to get in and make his own way. But I’m looking forward to it.”
The seasons pass. The years will roll. But Ohio Stadium and the many memories it has brought to all of us? They stand strong.