It probably should have occurred to me beforehand that late November would be a busy time for Archie Griffin. Being the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, an Ohio State legend, nay, institution and all around good guy, certainly media inquiries would take up a lot of his time as we near the end of the college football season. But I hadn't thought that far ahead when I sought an interview with Griffin. I was mildly surprised to find that the president and CEO of the Ohio State Alumni Association had a person designated to handle interview requests for him. I contacted that person, Jay Hansen, last week in an attempt to set up an interview. “He's pretty busy right now,” Hansen informed me. It suddenly dawned on me that we were approaching Heisman voting time. Certainly Griffin would be up to his eyebrows in interviews. I would need to play the ace up my sleeve. “Well, if it makes any difference,” I said. “Archie knows me, we went to high school together.” Hensen wedged me into Griffin's busy schedule the next day. Whether my crass mention of my past played any part, I don't know. Signing in at the Longaberger Alumni House well before noon, the true nature of Griffin's schedule stared me in the face. Five other journalists had signed in before me, writing “interview with Archie Griffin” in the “purpose of visit” block. I could only guess at how many more would follow me. As I waited to be received I concluded that all the other interviewers were probably asking about Michigan Week and the possibility that Archie's reign as the only two-time winner of the Heisman could be in jeopardy. I decided then and there to start elsewhere. Archie greeted me warmly, though we hadn't seen each other in 13 years. The last time we saw each other had been in 2000, when we were cart partners in a golf outing at the OSU Scarlet course. “I want to start with our shared past, at Eastmoor High School,” I said. “The field there is now named for you. With all the other awards and honors you've been given, where does that stand among them?” “That is a very, very important thing in my life,” Archie says. “When Eastmoor named their football field after me, that was something that I feel very strongly about and I appreciate that so much. That was the first thing like that, that was ever done for me and I cherish that, I really do. I'm extremely honored.” I recalled my own time at Eastmoor, when I was a classmate of Archie's older brother Daryle. We were seniors when Archie was a junior. Both played football, of course. I was a mere spectator. Archie laughs when I tell him of a lasting memory of Friday night football at Eastmoor, that of his mother, Margaret, how she could be heard above everyone else in the stands. “She and my father were my biggest supporters,” he says. “He worked three jobs. His vacation from Ohio Malleable (Iron Company) was Friday nights. He'd take his vacation to see us play football. I'll never forget that. That's something that's really special to me. And when I think about Eastmoor and them naming that field after me. That's one of the best honors I've ever had.” He's had many. Few though are more well known than the honor bestowed upon him by his Ohio State coach, the late, great Woody Hayes. It was not a piece of hardware or a trophy, it was merely a sentence offered to reporters one day while Archie was still playing for the Buckeyes. "He's a better young man than he is a football player, and he's the best football player I've ever seen," Hayes said. It's many years later, but Griffin recalls it as if it was yesterday. “It certainly made me feel good,” Archie says. “But I could say the same for him. He was a great football coach but he was a better person than a coach. And I say that because he just cared so much about people.” Like his mentor, Griffin has learned the lesson of “pay it forward.” In addition to his work with the Alumni Association, he also tends to the The Archie Griffin Scholarship Fund, which creates scholarship opportunities at Ohio State for high school athletes. And each year Griffin presents a scholarship to a male and female athlete at Eastmoor. Indeed Griffin has mentored a generation of young people, including his own kids, two of whom, Adam and Andre, played for the Buckeyes. After a shoulder injury sidelined him, Adam's playing days came to an end earlier this year. Still, on November 23, he walked onto the field with the seniors during the Senior Day festivities. “It made me very proud,” Griffin said. “My middle son, Andre, who coaches running backs down at Saginaw Valley State (in Michigan), he played as well and those are very proud moments when you see your kids out there playing for the Buckeyes. It's something that you'll always remember for the rest of your life. And the great thing about it is that Ohio State is where they wanted to play. Adam in particular, when he was being recruited by other schools, he'd say, 'I've always wanted to go to Ohio State, that's where I want to go to school.' That made me feel real good to know that.” Archie's eyes light up when he talks about his sons. I silently wonder if he'd swell with the same pride if his sons had opted to play at, say, Michigan, but I don't dare ask. I want to move on to the big issue, the Heisman question, but there's something else I want to learn about first: The Nissan Heisman House commercials. Archie laughs when I bring it up. He uncovers the myth by explaining that there is no such place as the Heisman House, what we see in the commercials is merely a mock up. “I remember the first one they did, it was in New Orleans,” he says. “The time that I did it, it was in Pasadena. It's fun to do. Those things are comical, you have a good time and the good part is you get together with the other Heisman winners and you're having fun just enjoying each others company. That's the big thing to me.” Griffin was featured in one particular ad, which showed him and Charles Woodson, the 1997 winner from Michigan, arriving at the mythical structure. “We had a ball,” he says. “Basically it was, I had two Heismans and there were two (parking) spaces for me and then two pieces of cake at the end for me and Charles was behind me, so there was none left for him. It was a good time.” The commercial offers no explanation. There is no dialog. It doesn't need any. It is universally understood that Griffin is the only person ever to win two Heisman Trophies. But that could soon change. The 2012 winner, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, was just a freshman when he collected the trophy. And he's on the Heisman watch this season, though ESPN's Heisman Watch web site currently lists Manziel fourth in the running. Another freshman, Florida State Jameis Winston currently tops the field. The implication being, that some time in the near future Griffin may no longer be the only two-time winner. “That doesn't bother me,” he says. “I don't mind company. One of the things I tell people is, I can always say I was the first. That's something that's very special in itself, but I don't mind company. I've always felt that records were made to be broken and this too will be broken. I even believe that somebody might win it three times, now that you see freshmen winning the award. I've been saying this a long time, If I can win it twice, I know there's somebody else out there who could win it twice. So it wouldn't surprise me and it wouldn't bother me at all. I want to be there to welcome them. “I thought it would have been done by now in all honesty. It's been 38 years, so that's a long time. So how could you feel some animosity toward anybody to not want it to be broken? I mean, 38 years is a long time.” And over that long time, what has it felt like to be one of a kind? “I feel blessed,” Archie says. “I've gotten a lot of accolades having played here. I always say that I was fortunate in the sense that I was in the right place at the right time with the right people. My teammates, I feel, made me look good enough to win the Heisman Trophy. I mean, I had talent, I played well, but you've got to have everything in place. Those were some great teams I played on. Those guys were terrific. I think about some of those linemen I played with like John Hicks, Kurt Schumacher, Chris Ward. Those three were All Americans and then you think of Doug France, who went on to play great ball in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams and was All-Pro. He was on those teams. And I think of the guards like Steve Myers, people like that who were All Americans. I feel I was fortunate. All that's got to take place for all that to come about the way that it did. So I just count my blessings.” Archie and I chatted about the current crop of Buckeyes, who will ride into Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State with a 24-game winning streak. “I think it's set up to be a great game,” he says. “I think it sets the strengths against each other. Our strength right now is our offense, the way we can put points on the board. Michigan State's strength is their defense and the way they have stopped teams. It's strength against strength and that makes for an exciting football game. It's going to be a great game. You know the coach at Michigan State (Mark Dantonio) was Defensive Coordinator here under Jim Tressel, so you know there's some incentive there to win for them. But at the same time, this is our first Big Ten Championship Game. So that's got to be exciting for our guys as well.” Having got the heavy issues out of the way Archie and I chatted more about the past. I remind him of a night he, brother Daryle and their friend Eddie Bell got me in trouble with my boss. In high school, I delivered pizzas for Cardi's Pizza, an establishment that also gave former Columbus Mayor Buck Rinehart his first job. Archie lets loose with a belly laugh when I mention Eddie. He continues to laugh as I remind him of how, while I delivered a pizza to them, they talked me into a game of cards, in particular the game of Tonk. It kept me from my deliveries, which got me in hot water back at Cardi's. The mention of Tonk makes him laugh harder, but not as loud as he did when I relayed a more recent memory. During his time as an Ohio State Assistant Athletic Director (Athletic Directors are known by members of the press as the A.D.), he was known to journalists as the A.G. (The Archie Griffin). “OK,” he says, laughing heartily. “No, I was not aware of that. Thanks for letting me know.” Laughter comes easy to Archie, even when he is the object of the joke. And why shouldn't he be good natured? He is loved and admired by millions of Ohioans, but certainly in no place more than right here in Columbus. So my final question to him was this: What's it like being Archie Griffin in Columbus? “I love being Archie Griffin in Columbus, Ohio,” he says. “This is where I was born and raised, as you know, this is my city. I love being a part of this. I was born in University Hospital, went to college here, played pro football in Cincinnati and then came back to Columbus and started working at the university back in 1984. And I've been here just about ever since. It's been great. “The university has been good to me and, hopefully, I've been good to the University.”

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