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A Family Affair: Three great careers, one magical season for the Griffins

Celebrating the families that have made Ohio State athletics their home. 

Archie Griffin Poses with the Heisman Trophy Photo by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

In this series, we’re talking some of our favorite Ohio State families, rolling on with another set of three siblings from Ohio State football.

As we’ve discussed several times in this series, being a sibling can be tough, especially when your brother or sister is a superstar athlete. This next set of siblings takes that idea to a whole new level — even though it seems elite athleticism runs in the family.

What’s tougher than being the brother of the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner in college football, though? How about having to follow him to Ohio State and manage every expectation coming your way?

That’s exactly what happened for Ray and Duncan Griffin — yes, two younger brothers of Ohio State running back Archie Griffin.

We all know about Archie, who remains one of the greatest Ohio State running back of all time and, arguably, the greatest college back ever. Having been raised in Columbus and played his high school ball at Eastmoor, Archie came to Ohio State in 1972, becoming the starting tailback immediately, in the first year that the NCAA allowed freshmen football players on the field. Despite being undersized — Archie was 5-foot-9, 189 pounds — the running back would immediately become a leading rusher for the Buckeyes and establish himself as a key to Hayes’ offense.

Four-straight Big Ten titles, four Rose Bowl appearances and three first-team All-America honors later, Archie emerged as the all-time leader in Ohio State rushing yards — a record he holds to this day by 1,000+ yards. Despite his size, Archie would go on to be the 24th overall pick in the 1976 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. After a brief NFL career with the Bengals, Archie would retire, return to Columbus and begin his work as an administrator with The Ohio State University. Ohio State retired his No. 45 jersey in 1999.

Archie didn’t have to wait too long for his family to join him at Ohio State. Ray started at defensive back for Ohio State from 1974-1977. Although he began his career as a backup to Archie at running back, Ray grew into his role at safety. Possibly his biggest moment came in the 1975 Michigan game when Ray picked off Wolverine quarterback Rick Leach in the fourth quarter of a tied ball game, setting up the Buckeyes for a win and Rose Bowl berth.

Overlapping for two seasons with his elder brother, Ray was also part of four Big Ten conference championship teams. Following two Rose Bowls, Ray helped the Buckeyes to the Orange Bowl in 1976 and Sugar Bowl in 1977.

But then there was that one magical season in 1975 where all three of the brothers were on the team together. The (almost) youngest Griffin brother, Duncan, joined the team, playing defensive back for the Buckeyes from 1975-1978.

In 1977, Ray was selected as a captain and earned All-American honors, and was later drafted in the second round of the 1978 NFL Draft, also by the Cincinnati Bengals.

All three brothers were part of one of the most outstanding eras in Ohio State football history in terms of overall success. Woody Hayes won six-straight Big Ten titles from Archie’s freshman season in 1972 to Ray’s senior and Duncan’s junior season in 1977. And of course, Duncan’s final season culminated in Hayes’ last game as head coach. .

But the story gets bigger than that. The Griffins are an impressive family even beyond the three brothers who played on the Ohio State football team, because of the eight children of Margaret and James Griffin, eight earned college athletic scholarships, and eight earned degrees. Three ended up in the NFL.

James Jr. the eldest, played college ball as a halfback at Muskingum (the only Griffin child to not earn a full athletic scholarship, because Muskingum didn’t offer full athletic scholarships). Larry, the second eldest, was a fullback at Louisville, and Daryle was a cornerback at Kent State. Then came Archie, Raymond and Duncan. The final boy of the group, Keith, played running back at Miami, and would go on to play for Washington in the NFL. Krystal, the youngest, would run track at Drake.

Many from the next generation of Griffins have played college football as well, including at Ohio State, but that’s for another article.

The family is certainly representative of a whole new level of excellence — one which continues to today. In recent years, Ray has become an advocate for college athletes, having sued the NCAA and Big Ten in 2016 for concussions incurred during his playing career. Archie has devoted much of his post-playing career to continuing to support the university, having previously served as president and CEO of The Ohio State University Alumni Association.

We all know Archie’s story — and for those among us too young to watch Ray and Duncan play as well, it’s pretty cool to know that, for possibly the greatest Buckeye football player of all time, his time at Ohio State was truly a family affair.