‘Young Arch’ Can’t Run from Griffin Legacy
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was a confusing moment during interviews this week where Christian Bryant kept referring to Adam Griffin as ‘Arch.’
He was talking about Griffin’s relationship with his family, and more specifically with his famous father – the one and only two-time Heisman Trophy winner in college football history.
Photo by Jim Davidson
It would have been an easy mix-up for Bryant, given the nature of the conversation, only this wasn’t a mistake. Not even a little one.
“We call him ‘Young Arch’,” Bryant quickly clarified.
“He came in our freshman year, we didn't really know what to expect. We just knew his dad was Archie Griffin.”
At 5-8 and 180 pounds, Griffin is an unassuming figure in almost every way, save for his last name. Few carry more clout in Columbus – and really around the country when it comes to college football.
Other great players have come and gone since Archie Griffin won back-to-back Heisman Trophies in the mid-1970s, but he remains one of the true icons of the sport. Especially in Columbus, where Adam Griffin was raised in the shadow of his famous father.
“My sophomore year in high school playing football, that's probably the first time it ever hit me,” Griffin said this week after earning his first Special Teams Player of the Week award at Ohio State.
“We were playing Lima Shawnee and I guess (former OSU point guard) Jamar Butler was at the game. He came up to me like, 'Oh, you're Archie Griffin's son. I heard you were playing us today’.”
That was the first time Adam Griffin truly realized the significance of his last name. Since then, he has tried to shy away from being known as the next Griffin, or simply the son of Archie Griffin.
Or so he claims.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“He loves his last name,” Bryant said as soon as Adam had walked away from the interview table.
“He talks about it almost every day. He knows what his dad did.”
It wasn’t just his dad. Adam’s uncle Ray Griffin was an outstanding cornerback for the Buckeyes from 1974-77. Like his big brother Archie, Ray was also drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, but he was also a part of some big plays during his time in Columbus.
Ray Griffin set up the game-winning touchdown in the 1975 Michigan game with an interception off Wolverines’ quarterback Rick Leach. The game was tied 14-14 at the time, but Griffin returned the pick to the 10-yard line, setting up a game-winning touchdown run from fullback Pete Johnson.
Johnson was the thunder to Archie’s lighting on some of Woody Hayes’ best teams in the early to mid 1970s. From 1972-75, Woody won four-straight Big Ten titles and went to four Rose Bowls, all with Griffin leading the way.
He set a school rushing record with 5,589 yards during his four years at Ohio State, but it’s another member of the family who Adam is trying to emulate this season.
“I would have to say my cousin Kevin,” he said when asked about the best special teams player in the family.
One of the first players to commit to John Cooper in the class of 1994, Kevin Griffin is the nephew of Archie, Ray and Duncan Griffin – all of whom played at Ohio State. Kevin played defensive back and was a valuable special teams member for Buckeyes from 1995-98, which is exactly the role Adam is trying to fill for new OSU head coach Urban Meyer.
“Once he offered me a scholarship, then that just validated that I was good enough to play here,” said Griffin, who was the last scholarship offered by Jim Tressel in the class of 2010.
“When I got here, I just wanted to go out there and prove that.”
Only he never got that chance during his first two seasons at Ohio State. He said he would go home from practice feeling “frustrated” and “mad at the world,” but a new coaching staff meant a new opportunity to show what he could do.
“It was definitely a reset button for me because new coaches, a new set of eyes watching you play and they don't have any past thoughts about you,” said Griffin, who beat out some highly-touted freshmen to earn the fourth cornerback spot in OSU’s two-deep this fall.
“I just came in and tried to make a name.”
His last name was one Meyer was already familiar with from his youth. Ohio State’s first-year head coach used to wear No. 45 growing up in Ashtabula, but now he knows a little bit about No. 9 as well.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Kind of an unsung hero for us, and I love the guy. He goes really hard and tries really hard,” Meyer said this week.
“He was a workaholic in the offseason. Spring ball, he didn’t do great and then he came out and got in my face a little bit about getting on special teams and he’s done well.”
He played a little bit of corner in the second half, but he was a force on special teams. He finished with two tackles, but one of them was a beautiful stop inside the 20 yard line that eventually led to a botched Miami punt and Bradley Roby’s touchdown recovery.
“You guys know Archie. What a class act,” Meyer said, speaking of the real Archie, not his son.
“I don’t see him putting that pressure on his kids to be Archie Griffin.”
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