Forty years ago, Ohio State running back Archie Griffin won college football’s highest individual honor, the Heisman Trophy. The next year he won it again. Which, if our math is correct, makes two Heismans for Griffin. Which is one more than anyone else has ever won. Which you have to admit is pretty cool, even if you went to Michigan.
So with the first-ever College Football Playoff kicking off this week, he seemed like the perfect guy to chat with. We grabbed a few minutes with him prior to the Wendy’s High School Heisman award ceremony to ask him about who he likes in that Alabama-Ohio State game (spoiler: It’s who you think), whether college football players should get paid and what it’s like to be mentioned in a Farrelly brothers movie.
Oh yeah, we also ask about those two trophies of his…
“I would like to see college athletes get cost-of-attendance payment to play the game, and I think it’s going to happen. Matter of fact, I’m sure it’ll happen.”
Since winning your second Heisman Trophy in 1975, what’s the longest period of time you’ve gone without someone mentioning the Heisman?
Not very long! It’s got to be almost every day that someone mentions the Heisman. The Heisman becomes a part of who you are. When I’m introduced, it’s not Archie Griffin, it’s usually two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin. So every day that’s mentioned.
We just thought maybe you spent a week in Jamaica once and nobody mentioned it.
[Laughs] Even there somebody seems to find out!
What’s the biggest difference between the Heisman Trophy presentation now and when you won it?
Well, it’s a more spectacular production now. And it’s televised. When I won it, I got a call from our sports information office on the Monday after we played Michigan that I needed to be in New York the next day, and that there’d be two other candidates there who could possibly win the Heisman Trophy. When I got to New York, I was met and taken to the Downtown Athletic Club, and I was the only candidate there. And they announced me as the Heisman Trophy winner.
So the next year when they made that call to tell me that I needed to be in New York the next day, they knew that I knew the routine, so they just told me that I couldn’t tell anybody that I had won. Nowadays they make the announcement with multiple candidates there. That in itself is a lot different. But the public dinner was just as big back then as it is today. That’s a fun evening.
Which would you rather have, your two Heisman trophies, or the pro career of Walter Payton?
I love my two Heisman trophies. And I love the pro career I had as well. So I wouldn’t change anything. Because all of those situations were learning situations for me and I’ve become a better man because of them.
You are mentioned in the (underrated) Farrelly brothers movie Stuck on You. Were you aware of this, and have you seen the movie?
I have not seen the movie. I didn’t know that I was mentioned in that. The name of the movie was what now?
It’s called Stuck on You. It’s a silly movie, but at one point a character says that he won two Heisman trophies. And Matt Damon says, “Every guy knows that Archie Griffin’s the only guy who won the Heisman twice.”
[Laughs] I’ve got to check that out.
Strike a pose: Griffin in action as a young Buckeye—and hangin’ with his trophies today.
Do you think some college football fans take college football too seriously? And if so, what percentage of them need to chill out?
Well, the fans are passionate about their teams. And as universities, you know, you want your fans passionate about their team and their school. It’s a point of pride for fans, and that’s nothing to be ashamed about.
But they need to realize that it is a game, and there’s a lot of things that are more important than the game of football. And we need to make sure that you don’t hold these college student athletes up so high and then make them crash because maybe they did not perform the way that you wanted them to perform. Because I guarantee you one thing: They’re giving it their all.
If you could change one thing about college football these days, what would it be?
There’s been a lot of talk about paying college players, and I would like to see, not an employer-employee relationship, but I would like to see college athletes get cost-of-attendance payment to play the game, and that’s more than what the scholarships give student-athletes now. I think it’s going to happen. Matter of fact, I’m sure it’ll happen. And I’m not just talking about football either.
So what’s this Wendy’s program all about?
Well, I’ve been involved with the Wendy’s High School Heisman program since its inception back in 1994. It’s a wonderful program because it recognizes those seniors for their outstanding contributions in the classroom—you have to have a 3.0 grade point average or better to qualify—it recognizes them for their outstanding athletic abilities, and it recognizes them for the work they do in their communities. It’s amazing the amount of community service that these young high school seniors have done in their short period of life. So it’s truly an outstanding program.
Do you have a favorite running back of all time?
My favorite running back of all time is still the same as when I was a kid, and that was Jim Brown. He was the real deal, no question.
Good lacrosse player too, apparently.
Great lacrosse player. I think some consider him the best ever.
You’re currently the president of the Ohio State Alumni Association, so we think we know your answer, but: Who do you like to win the national title this year?
Well, I would love to see the Buckeyes win it, no question about it. But it’s a tall order. We’re the number four team, so we’re in that last spot. And we have to go in playing the number one team, Alabama. So it’s going to be a huge test. But that’s why we play the games.
If the Buckeyes make it to the final, who do you think they’ll play?
I would say, because of the way they seem to come through every time, that if Ohio State makes it, they’ll probably play Florida State. And again, two and three playing each other, that’s a tough choice. I would imagine that people probably have Oregon as the favorite. But you know, Florida State, they have just found ways to win, and there’s something to be said about that…