What better person to talk to Ohio State football about than Archie Griffin? Land-Grant Holy Land had the opportunity to speak with the two-time Heisman Trophy winner and college football legend about Ohio State football, who he sees as Heisman contenders, as well as his involvement with the Wendy's High School Heisman.
Land-Grant Holy Land: This upcoming December will mark 40 years since your second Heisman Trophy, what's the greatest part of not only being a part of the fraternity, but also being the only two-time winner?
Archie Griffin: The greatest part is just being involved in a part of the group that are Heisman winners. We look forward every year to getting back to New York and bringing in the new winner. Those are things that you can look forward to every year and being with those guys who won the award who are similar to yourself as far as having won the award, that in itself is very, very special. So I always look forward to it every year.
LGHL: What was most difficult about winning a second Heisman?
AG: Winning the second Heisman, I mean, you know you're a marked man. You finish fifth as a sophomore, and then you win it as a junior and going into that senior year, you know that you're marked and that everything's going to be a little bit more difficult. We lost a lot of people after my junior year, a lot of our offensive linemen and folks like that and so when we were starting up with kind of a new group but it's great to know that you rebuild and reload, and we reloaded that year.
I was able to win the Heisman Trophy because of the guys that I played with. They made all the difference in the world, and I'd be the first to tell you that winning the Heisman Trophy certainly is a great honor, a great individual honor, but it's really a team honor, because you can't win that without great teammates and I make it clear that I was in the right place at the right time with the right people to make that happen.
LGHL: 1972 was the first year that freshmen were allowed to play varsity in college, and you won a starting position. Did you face backlash from any teammates?
AG: I didn't face any backlash from any teammates. What helped that was that when I got into the second game of the season the guys were blocking extremely well and I ended up rushing for a school record of 239 yards and when you do that people can see that you deserve to be there. So I got along very well with my teammates certainly in my freshman year as well. I think they were happy to have me a part of it and felt great to be a part of it, it was like a dream come true for me because coming out of high school a lot of people told me I shouldn't go to Ohio State because I was too small and to get there and to get that opportunity to get in as a freshman in the first year that freshmen were eligible was very special.
LGHL: In 2014 you were named the All-Century Player of the Rose Bowl during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the game, what was that like?
AG: Well what makes it special is it's The Granddaddy of Them All. It's the bowl game that people have talked about for years and years, and what really made it special to me, is that during the time that I played at Ohio State, it was the only bowl game that you could go to in the Big Ten, and you had to win the Big Ten Championship in order to be there. So that made it really special. Every year our goal was to win a Big Ten championship so that we could go to the Rose Bowl. When we would go to the Rose Bowl in those first three years, nobody else from the Big Ten could go to a bowl game, so that made it special. You were the only one in that conference that could make it to that game and it was without a doubt the biggest game. That's why they call it The Granddaddy of Them All.
I really loved the time that we had out in California in the four times that we went there, we played some great teams and had success one of the years and didn't have success in the other years but they were always really good contests and really great experiences that we had there. The Rose Bowl is very special and to be in the Rose Bowl parade a couple of years ago was very special. I had played there and all that and had seen the Rose Bowl parade over the years on TV. When we played there we couldn't be in the parade but you knew it was going on, so to actually be in the parade was very special. It was a special time, it was a special honor to receive the All-Century player.
LGHL: You are a part of a handful of Buckeyes to have never lost to Michigan, what was playing against Michigan like for you, and what does the rivalry mean to you?
AG: The rivalry means the world to me, as a matter of fact. During the time that I played that was the Bo and Woody era, and that made it even more special because not only did you have two teams that were gonna compete extremely hard against each other but you had two coaches that were more competitive, you might say, and that just added something to the rivalry. When I played at Ohio State we practiced all year long to play Michigan. Our first day of practice every week was geared towards Michigan. The game meant that much to us, it meant that much to our coaches, so we felt that all year long we had to practice for Michigan. Spring practice was geared towards Michigan, first day of practice every week during the regular season was geared towards Michigan because we wanted to win that football game, it was just that important.
LGHL: Who was your greatest influence off the field?
AG: Off of the field, it would probably have to be my father and Woody Hayes. I respected the heck out of both of those men, both of those men are gone, but I think of them every day of my life. That's something that I know I will always do. My father was a very hardworking man, worked three jobs to support a family of eight kids. Coach Woody Hayes was a man who had great leadership qualities and he cared a great deal about people and that was most impressive to me about coach Hayes, the way that he cared about people.
LGHL: Speaking of father-son relationships, what was more nerve racking, watching your son play or playing yourself?
AG: Watching my son play, no doubt. Because when you're playing, you don't think about those things you just go out there and perform. But when you're watching, you're sitting there hoping that your kids do what they're supposed to do, they do the right things. Certainly it starts popping up in your head, hopefully they won't get hurt and things like that too. When you're playing you don't really think of those things you just go out there and do it. When you're not, and you have kids involved you get to thinking about those things, and it's a concern.
LGHL: Moving on to Ohio State today, who on the Buckeyes do you think has the best chance to win the Heisman, and why?
AG: You know, that's a really great question. We are so talented at Ohio State right now that there are a few people actually, in my opinion, are good enough to win the Heisman Trophy. The guy that I'll put up first, I'm gonna say Zeke because of the performance that he had towards the end of last year and the performance he had against Virginia Tech with only 11 carries. I think he will be a prime candidate for the Heisman this year. A lot of it depends on how he is used and how much he gets to carry the football, but certainly our quarterbacks are candidates.
Cardale Jones, I think people will really have the opportunity to see him this year and will be able to see that this young man can play the game and he's probably more that pro-style type quarterback but he can do other things. He's dangerous when he runs the football, he can run that option, but then you look at J.T., a guy who finished 5th last year in the Heisman voting, he's right there. It all depends on what time he gets to play. I don't know what that's gonna be but that depends.
I think you also have to consider Braxton too. I mean, with what Braxton did in the first game, I thought it was very special after having moved positions to have that type of impact on the first game from that H-back position, and taking snaps from the center, it's going to be interesting to see what shakes out. What you hope is that we don't have so many candidates that somebody else sneaks in there in front of those candidates. But the season is young, and there is always somebody that will pop up who you did not expect who will have a great season and they can become Heisman Trophy winners.
But I think Ohio State certainly has some guys who are candidates for the Heisman Trophy. But look at what's around the country, you have Trevone Boykin out at TCU, he's a candidate, Derrick Henry at Alabama, Cody Kessler at USC. All of these guys are tremendous athletes and you never know who is going to win the award, but I think we have the talent at Ohio State to get it done.
LGHL: How involved are you with Ohio State's football team today if at all?
AG: I'll try to get over there and watch practice when I can, but I'm the type that will stay out of the way. I'm going to follow them, I'm going to be there for them. If they want me to help in recruiting and things of that sort, I'm there for them because I love Ohio State and I love this football team. So I try to do whatever they would like me to do, but I don't try to get in the way. I just try to enjoy the team and their performance and all the things that they're doing in the community. They do a terrific job, and that coaching staff does an absolutely wonderful job as well.
LGHL: What are your thoughts on Urban Meyer and his tenure thus far at Ohio State?
AG: I love Urban and the way that he's coached the teams he has had at Ohio State and the job that he did last year with that football team, suffering the adversity that that team suffered was absolutely remarkable. You just don't see those types of things happening like that. I categorize it as the most remarkable season that I've ever seen at Ohio State and his leadership helped get that done. I've been very impressed with Urban.
LGHL: Tell me about the Wendy's High School Heisman program and your involvement.
AG: Well first of all, let me just say this, every school has outstanding students that represent the Heisman ideals about being great athletes and outstanding students and being involved in community and charitable programs. I just want to encourage folks to nominate high school seniors, to go online and to fill out an application to be a Wendy's High School Heisman Award winner.
To be a Wendy's High School Heisman Award winner you have to have good grades, you have to have a B grade point average or better, you have to participate in at least one of 43 sports sanctioned by the National Federation of High School Sports, and you also have to be involved in your community, your school, do charitable work, and be a leader in your school and a role model for underclassmen at your school. We are in our 22nd year of the Wendy's High School Heisman Award. Each year, we bring in 10 finalists for the award to New York during the same week that the collegiate Heisman award is being awarded. Each finalists school will receive $2,000 in their name and the male and female winners schools will receive $5,000 from Wendy's, and it's just a wonderful award.