Sure, like everyone says, Archie Griffin can run through the side of a mountain, leap the whole state of Michigan in a single bound and all that. And yeah, we know, he's God's gift to impressionable youth, the most wholesome influence since Pat Boone. But c'mon now, surely Archie has a few faults. Like maybe just once he uttered a discouraging word or something? Or perhaps he doesn't know all four stanzas of The Star-Spangled Banner?
The question stuns Loretta Laffitte, an Ohio State coed and Griffin's girl friend of long standing. She draws back as if the flames of heresy were licking about her. She bites her thumb. She knits her brow. She starts to speak, stops, shakes her head and ponders some more.
Archie Griffin, myth and man. The subject stirs strong reactions in and about Columbus, Ohio, ranking right up there on the emotional scale with patriotism and pork-belly futures. At the one extreme there is the perplexed silence of Loretta Laffitte. At the other the torrential outpourings of Woody Hayes, a man who is never at a loss for an answer. Indeed, he does not even need a question.
"Archie Griffin is the greatest back I've ever seen or coached," Hayes says, limbering up. "He's also the most popular player we've ever had, by far. In fact, we value Archie's attitude more than his football ability. Which is saying something, because he can do everything. He's a great blocker, a great faker and a great broken-field runner, one of those rare backs who can run over you or around you. It's like Rommel's wide-front attack or Sherman maneuvering through Georgia. No one ever knew which way they were going, either, and from there on it was strictly option football.
"Archie has promised me that he's going to law school. And then I want him to go into politics. He's a middle-of-the-roader, and that's what our country needs today. Archie doesn't say much. He leads by example. When we go running out at halftime I keep stumbling over him because he's always down there on his knees, praying. Oh, my God, he's so honorable!"
Hayes rolls on and on like the mighty Olentangy. Following the thought flow is tricky, but in this case the drift seems to be that 1) Griffin is a sterling football player, which everyone knows, and 2) he wears a halo under his helmet, which no one believes because coaches are always saying things like that to inspire another first down.
Nevertheless, indications are that Griffin's finest achievement, even more impressive perhaps than winning the Heisman Trophy last year, may be that he comes close to living up to Woody's beatific vision, that he actually may be some kind of seraph in scarlet and gray.
Griffin is truly embarrassed, for example, when asked about that record string he has going of rushing for 100 or more yards in 21 consecutive regular-season games. He also reads the Bible faithfully. He always makes his bed when the team stays in a motel. He dotes on children. He is kind to reporters and other oppressed peoples. And from all accounts he makes grown men applaud when he delivers, as every Heisman hero must, that hoariest of stock lines: "Really, it's not an individual award—it's for my linemen and the whole team."
Griffin is only the fifth player to have won the Heisman Trophy as a junior in the 40-year history of the award and the first since Roger Staubach in 1963. And that is only the half of it. Or more precisely the eighth of it, for James and Margaret Griffin have been raising a veritable athletic dynasty right in the Buckeyes' backyard. The Griffin lineup: James Jr., 27; Larry, 25; Daryle, 23; Archie, 21; Raymond, 19; Duncan, 17; Keith, 13; and Crystal, 10. All the Griffins are or were football players. All are or were captains of their teams. And all are or were All-Everything. Or, as Archie says, "No Griffin ever played on a loser."
It is only within the tightly knit Griffin huddle, in fact, that myth becomes man. The family game is passing the praise around, a selfless diversion in which there are no legends, only laggards. That is, every time the prowess of a family member is mentioned, one or more of the Griffins will top it by citing the exploits of another. Anyone can be "it," but more often than not these days it is archangel Archie who gets clipped.
If someone says, for example, that Archie plays for a conference champion, it quickly will be pointed out that so did James Jr. as a halfback at Muskingum, Larry as a fullback at Louisville and Daryle as a cornerback at Kent State. Or it it be noted that Archie was the 165-pound high school wrestling champion of Greater Columbus, big deal, someone will say, Duncan won the district title in the same weight class.
And so it goes, back and forth, great vs. greater: Archie, in his best effort last season, averaged 9.5 yards a carry and scored once against Northwestern; Raymond, an OSU freshman playing behind his brother in the same game, averaged 11 yards and also scored. Archie accounted for 72 points and 12 touchdowns last year and was the Buckeyes' No. 2 scorer; Keith, a halfback and safety, was the No. 1 scorer for Johnson Park Junior High. Archie, a weight-machine addict, is strong; Duncan, a 5'11", 190-pound freshman linebacker at Ohio State, is stronger. Archie, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, is fast; Raymond, with a 4.3 clocking, is faster. Archie is God-fearing; Daryle was voted the 1975 Ohio Christian Athlete of the Year.
There is no winning. Even Archie's Heisman statuette looks lost in the Griffin recreation room, where hundreds of trophies, plaques, medals, citations, ribbons, bronzed cleats, enshrined helmets and mounted hunks of goalposts adorn all four walls, climb the stairway and spill over into the dining room. It is perhaps only fitting, for in a recent—and painfully truthful—family poll as to which Griffin is, was or will be the best running back, Archie tied for third, and then only because Daryle and Duncan switched to defense and their sister Crystal has not suited up yet.
Though the hardware continues to mount, in all seriousness (bragging, like smoking, drinking and swearing, is strictly forbidden in the Griffin home) the father and proud custodian of the trophy room says he will still be able to make room for what he expects will be a minimum of three more Heismans.
And what James Sr. says goes; in another family survey the Griffin brothers unanimously avow that the man they respect most in the world is their father. Further respect, a favorite Griffin word, is paid to their mother for holding forth during all the trying years when the patriarch was absent. Which was often, since James Sr., 54 and still subsisting on fewer than four hours sleep a night, has been holding down two full-time and up to three part-time jobs for the past 23 years. "My father is the hardest-working man there ever was," says Archie, relinquishing yet another title.
The Remarkable Griffins is how James Retter thinks he might entitle the phenomenon in a book based in part on his recollections as Archie's junior high English teacher. Was there a dark chapter in Griffin's past, something scandalous like a C+ in Chaucer? "Archie was a model student," says Retter, "the most motivated, single-minded youngster I've ever seen. He got the best grades, was the first with his hand up, was the most spontaneous, the most...."
Ah, well, back to Loretta Laffitte; ultimately she alone showed that faultfinding, while perhaps difficult in Archie's case, is not impossible. All it takes is time. On the afternoon of the big question, riding in her suitor's spoke-wheel Buick Regal, she searched for an answer. Archie, fresh from averaging a dozen yards a carry in the Buckeyes' annual spring game, was at the wheel, chauffeuring a visitor on a tour of the ghettos of his Columbus boyhood.
Stopping by a tumbling, boarded-up storefront that once was Griffin's Grocery, Archie said that his mother and older brothers tended the store while the family, sleeping two or more to a bed, lived in two rooms in the rear. One reason the family enterprise failed, he admitted, was the armloads of ice-cream bars, Almond Joys and Hostess chocolate cupcakes he devoured on the sly. Not surprisingly, the family called him Butterball.
Then, inserting a Spinners recording into the car's tape deck, Archie drove by some of the six other houses the Griffins have lived in, along the streets where he delivered papers, through the neighborhoods where his father collected garbage for the city, past the elementary schools where he gives his 3D speech (Desire, Dedication, Determination) and finally into an OSU parking lot where cars bear the bumper sticker THANK YOU MRS. GRIFFIN.
Suddenly, after an hour of anguished deliberation, Loretta Laffitte made a polite noise. "Ahem," she said, "I have thought of a fault." Shooting a penitent glance at Griffin, she began, "Well, he's a, a.... " Lowering her eyes from the sheer treachery of it all, she said softly, "He's late picking me up sometimes."
Loretta Laffitte could be accused of rumormongering, for rival coaches can find no fault with Griffin. "We finally got a stay of execution," says Washington State's Jim Sweeney, who watched Archie gain 196 yards against the Cougars last season. "We don't have to play against Archie Griffin this year. What he can do is accelerate. He's an excellent, intelligent runner, a team guy who utilizes his blockers, but when he wants to leave the pack—goodby. We did our part in making him what he is today, but now he's on his own."
Some coaches even impart mystical qualities to Griffin. Indiana's Lee Corso, for example, claims, "He has unbelievable peripheral vision. I saw him go through a hole in our line that wasn't there. It was an off tackle to the left. You could see the hole develop, but then three of our men played it perfectly and closed it up. Griffin suddenly got through for 12 yards. It was one of the greatest runs I've ever seen."
Former Washington State assistant coach Walt Cubley sees more than peripheral vision. "Griffin has explosive eyes," he says mysteriously. "Last year he came running wide toward our bench. Our guys had the angle shut off, but then he cut and picked up 18 yards. Anyway, I got a close look at his eyeballs on that play, and they were as big as saucers. They say O. J. Simpson looks like that when he runs."
Opponents award Griffin the highest mark for his mastery of the ABCs of running—acceleration, balance, consistency. And they give him a flat F, as in fearsome, for his blocking.
Minnesota assistant Dick Moseley recalls how last season, when the Gophers were trailing the Buckeyes by only nine points in the final period, OSU Quarterback Cornelius Greene shook loose for 57 yards and the clinching touchdown. "We thought that our safety, Doug Beaudoin, could make the tackle, and he seldom misses," says Moseley. "Until we saw the films, we didn't realize Griffin had put a block on Doug, and just plain knocked him down."
Griffin's playing weight never topped 180 last season, and his listed height of 5'9" is on the generous side. He creates optical illusions because, like the mythical griffin, which was part lion, part eagle, his powers are a blend of disproportionate parts. In brief, Griffin has the upper body of George Foreman stacked on the lower half of Ron Cey.
But even that is only an approximation, for Griffin's waist measurement (31) is three inches smaller than Foreman's and his chest (48) 2½ inches larger. Cey, the Los Angeles Dodger third baseman who is nicknamed The Penguin, has a similar gait but nowhere near the quickness of Griffin.
Archie's teammates call him Duck-foot. Hayes describes his leg action as "wide, splayed to the left." And the press comes on about his "bandy-legged brilliance." Yet it is Griffin himself, saying it all dates back to his Butterball days, who provides the most accurate description. "I waddle," he says.
Running at full waddle, Griffin shimmies along as if a wheel or two were out of line somewhere. He runs low, pitched forward at a precipitous angle. His shoulders roll one way, his hips another. And all the while his legs keep bowing crazily out to the side while somehow churning forward. Add a center of gravity that is somewhere around his instep, and you have a moving target that is hard to nail. Tackling Archie, says Wisconsin assistant Lew Stueck, is "like trying to tackle a falling tree in a windstorm."
Archie attributes the ricochet effect of his running to a technique he developed as a wrestler. Though he likes to explain it in terms of "fulcrums," "leverage points" and "balance levels," in locker-room lingo it is simply a hard-nosed way of breaking tackles. When executed to crunching perfection it starts out as a kind of flying shoulder lift and ends up with the defender on his backside and Griffin glancing off for the goal line.
Other times Griffin will guide a blocker with his free hand and follow him in near lockstep through the line, shoving and directing him with cries of "Go! Go! Get 'em!" Then, when he has set up a block, he will deliberately swing his hips into his teammate and bounce away like a pinball coming off a bumper.
Neal Colzie, the first-round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders, says that after scrimmaging against Griffin at OSU for three seasons he knows what frustration is. "As a defensive back you know beforehand that Anthony Davis, say, is going to try to run around you just like you know Sam Cunningham is going to try to run over you," Colzie says. "But when you come heads up with Archie, you don't know what to expect. If you get too set, he just might sizzle around you. If you play it too loose, then he might slam right over you."
Griffin was the nation's second-leading rusher last season with 1,620 yards, most of it gained by running inside where the hardest licks are taken. Knowing that, the Buckeyes have outfitted their prize property with special heavy-duty thigh pads that are a few inches bigger than standard size, a sight that inspired Lee Corso to order similar outsized models for his Indiana backs. "I thought it was the thigh pads that made Griffin so hard to bring down," says Corso. "I put the same kind on Courtney Snyder last fall, and he did a pretty good job. But I found out that it ain't quite pads with Archie Griffin."
It ain't quite total protection with the pads, either. Despite the custom-made armor, Trainer Billy Hill says that "After a game Archie is one big mass of bruises. Even his hands are swollen with knots the size of golf balls. Many times he's so banged up he's unable to practice until the Thursday before a game."
Immersed in whirlpool baths, bombarded by ultrasonic heat waves and preserved in ice packs, Griffin lives to die in other ways. Going into last year's Michigan game, for instance, he was nursing a hip pointer, a painful bone bruise that "hurts like a bolt of lightning every time you cough or breathe too deeply," says Colzie, another victim. Speared from the side in the second quarter, Griffin not only aggravated the hip pointer but also played on with a severe thigh bruise to gain 111 yards and set up the final field goal that gave the Buckeyes a 12-10 victory, the Big Ten co-championship and their third straight trip to the Rose Bowl.
Durability is a trait Archie inherited from his father, a rock of a man who proudly notes, "Did you notice that when Anthony Davis got injured in the Rose Bowl he was right out of there? Well, Archie suffered a rib separation in the first quarter, and he played the whole game. I think it's his desire that keeps him going."
James Griffin Sr. talks a lot about desire as well as pride, devotion, perseverance—all the old verities he learned as a hardscrabble youth and passed on to his sons. "I'm kind of peculiar, I guess, but I think a lot of Christian people are lazy," he says. "They say, 'I don't want nothing but Jesus,' and they think that all they have to do is pray, and everything will come to them. But I don't think He meant it like that. He gives everybody a talent, and it's up to us to double and triple it. Just praying alone don't do it. People used to laugh, but I always said I was going to send all my kids to college. I didn't know how, but I knew I'd get them through someway. You got to reach out and do things for yourself. You got to work and keep on working."
Raised in Holden, W. Va., a coal-mining camp in Appalachia, James Griffin had more spunk than size. He played football in high school, earning an honorable mention on the all-state team as a 119-pound guard ("Guards had to be fast, back then," he says). After a stint in the Navy and a fling as a featherweight boxer he married Margaret Monroe, the second of 13 children, from a nearby mining camp in Hatfield Bottom, and went to work in the No. 1 Hole of the Island Creek Coal Company.
Convinced that "athletics offered the best opportunity for my kids to get ahead," he decided on baseball as the family vocation because "it was the only sport that colored could get into in those days." His goal was to raise an entire team of Griffins.
When mechanization caused layoffs in the mines James Griffin moved his growing family to Columbus in 1952, where he established a punishing routine that he still follows, working 20 hours a day. He manned a sanitation truck by day, worked in a steel foundry at night and served as a janitor in a high school in the wee hours between. He charged James Jr. with the role of "second daddy," telling him, "Whatever you do, the others will follow."
James Jr., now a Columbus insurance man, recalls, "It was very easy to get into trouble with your father not around. But the fact that none of us ever did shows the respect we had for him. He believes in the Ralph Bunche dream, that if you do your best, you will succeed regardless of color or class."
Or sport. Instead of infields the Griffin boys were soon populating back-fields—except for Archie, that is. He came up the slow way. Corduroys hiked to his knees, thighs padded with folded cardboard, a "32" inked on his sweat shirt (Jim Brown was his hero), Archie began his career playing "smear the queer," a variation of kill the man with the ball, in a field across from Griffin's Grocery. "The toughest maneuver was cutting back on the rocks and broken bottles," Archie recalls. Tougher still was following his brothers' fast-stepping lead when he moved up to Little League football. "I played middle guard," Archie says, "because I fit the description—short and fat."
Nicknamed "Tank" because of his ponderous ways on the field, Archie decided at age 12 to pare down his 150 pounds. By then the family had given up the grocery store and, instead of mainlining on Almond Joys, he began running to and from school. He lifted "weights"—two cases of beer bottles filled with dirt and attached to the ends of a mop handle. He converted the family bathroom into a steam box by turning the hot water on full force; then, encasing his body in airtight plastic cleaning bags, he did jumping jacks until the plastic melted on his back. And on hot summer days he pulled on three mohair sweaters, climbed into the family's disabled station wagon, rolled up the windows and did sit-ups while dreaming of dancing down the sideline.
He spurted across a finish line instead, startling both himself and the junior high coach who was holding tryouts for the track team. "Before I knew it," says Archie, "I was anchoring the 440 and 880 relay teams." When he turned out for football in the fall of his 13th year, "No fullback showed up, so I volunteered, and they told me to stay there."
James Sr. recalls, "I never knew Archie had streamlined himself into a back until I saw him play his first game that year. I remember he ran off tackle for a 50-yard touchdown, but they called it back because of an offside penalty. So on the next play he ran 55 yards, but they called it back again. So then, darned if he didn't run 60 yards, and this time the refs must have got tired, because they gave him the touchdown. I remember saying to one of my older boys, 'Man, we got something here.' "
Bob Stuart, coach of Eastmoor High, was sure of it when "Archie walked on the field and asked what he had to do to play first string. He was ready to play right there. He started as a sophomore, and by his final year he was just scary. I can never remember one man tackling him; you had to bring folks. Heck, Archie played the last three games with a broken bone in his foot, and they still couldn't catch him."
The gilding of Griffin goes on and on. And so did his parents, who for several years drove hundreds of miles to see their far-flung sons play in as many as six games over a fall weekend. Spacing out his vacation days, James Sr. reserved Friday nights for high school games, and then, he says, "We'd leave that one and go to the next one and the next one, until we ran out." Archie says, "My father never missed a game when we were in high school. You knew he was there because you could feel his eyes on you. You could hear him, too, yelling at you from the sidelines. We all performed for him. We didn't want him to use his vacation time in vain."
Eventually, caught speeding to make the kickoff of one game while listening to another on the car radio, the Griffins decided that there had to be a better way. That, more than any other reason, is why there will be three Griffins playing together this season in a stadium that is a leisurely drive from the family home. As Raymond said after he rejected a heavy recruiting rush put on him by Nebraska, "If I went anywhere but Ohio State, my mommy would die."
Which is not to say that there was not a lot of hard sell involved in Archie's case. All-Ohio in high school, he had more than 150 offers. Looking for "a smaller school where I could play right away," Archie settled at first on Northwestern. Ohio State was a contender, but there were reservations. As James Sr. says, "When we first came to Columbus, people told us that Coach Hayes didn't like colored, and we wanted to find out for ourselves." Rudy Hubbard, then a Hayes assistant and now the head coach at Florida A&M, obliged by taking the Griffins to supper with six black businessmen who had played under Hayes. The message, says Hubbard, was that "most white coaches are prejudiced, but the trend is changing, and Woody is more than fair in most cases."
As a follow-up, Hayes' wife Anne took Mrs. Griffin to lunch, and then for the clincher, says Hubbard, "We brought in the heavy hitter himself." Woody made an instant convert of James Sr., who says with some amazement, "It isn't nothing for Coach Hayes to come into your house and talk. And Mrs. Hayes kisses me whenever she sees me, I don't care how many people are around."
As insurance Hayes also collared Archie at Eastmoor High early one morning. "Woody was messing around with the wishbone back then," Bob Stuart recalls, "and Archie was afraid he'd never see the ball if he went to Ohio State. So Woody took him into an office, closed the door and spent a lot of time X-ing and O-ing. When they came out two hours later—zippo, that was it." Hayes says, "I told Archie that he'd play better for us because he'd get better blocking. That's pretty obvious. We can block, you know." Adds Stuart, "It was the best time Woody ever spent."
Hayes had cause to doubt that when Archie, just turned 18 and yet to attend his first class at OSU, suited up for the opening game of the 1972 season under the new freshman eligible rule, an amendment that Woody was scornful of at best. Sent in for one play against Iowa, third-stringer Griffin bobbled a low pitchout, and the Buckeyes lost five yards. On the eve of the next game, against North Carolina, Archie says, "I got down on my knees and asked the Lord to give me a chance to play. I read the Bible, too, especially the passage about 'Knock, and the door shall be opened.' "
Somebody up there liked him—namely Rudy Hubbard, who sat in the press box pleading with Hayes over the coaches' phone to put Archie in because "he's the best back we got." When Hayes refused, strong words were exchanged. Down seven points and with his offense continuing to falter, Hayes relented midway in the first quarter. Startled by the summons, Archie started to dash onto the field without his helmet, said a prayer of thanksgiving in the huddle and swept inside left end for six yards. Then he gained six more yards and six more to set the stage for the first of many stunners, a 32-yard bolt off tackle. Archie was knocking, and the door was opening.
The rest, as they say, is history as Griffin followed with runs of 55 yards and 22 yards and 20 yards and 11 yards to threaten Ollie Cline's single-game Ohio State rushing record—229 yards—with one quarter to go. Three plays later, Archie left the field to a standing ovation, and the announcement that the new record—239 yards—was his.
North Carolina's Bill Dooley, whose Tar Heels were defeated 29-14, their first and only loss that season, said afterward, "We came here not even knowing Archie Griffin existed, and now you tell me he's a freshman!"
The next year Griffin became the first sophomore to be voted the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player, and as a junior he became only the second player (along with Minnesota's Paul Giel) to win the honor twice. Now, with Heisman in hand, he stands ready to claim what may be the biggest first ever. James Jr., who has been acting as Archie's manager, says he has turned down all but a few of the 1,000 requests for public appearances. "We wanted Archie to concentrate on getting in the best shape possible for winning another Heisman," he says.
Another Heisman? It's more than a mere possibility; Griffin goes into the 1975 season as a favorite to become the first player to win two.
Beyond meeting the traditional criteria—he is a senior (seniors have won 35 of the 40 Heismans), a back (backs have won 38 times), plays in a major conference (the Big Ten leads all other leagues with nine winners) for a renowned team (Ohio State's four winners are second only to Notre Dame's six)—Griffin has four additional advantages.
First, given his already impressive statistics, Griffin figures to go on making the kind of news—he needs only 896 more yards, for example, to break the career rushing record of 4,715 set by Cornell's Ed Marinaro in 1971—that influences Heisman voters.
Second, the increasing popularity of the veer and wishbone has greatly diminished the chances of a free-flinging quarterback coming to the fore.
Third, marked man that he is, Griffin will again benefit mightily from Ohio State's all-round running attack, a threat that makes ganging up on the Heisman hotshot "tactical suicide," as Minnesota's Moseley puts it.
And fourth, while his chief rival, Oklahoma's Joe Washington, will once more suffer from the TV ban imposed on the Sooners by the NCAA for recruiting violations, Griffin should be gaining valuable exposure points in the two Buckeye regular-season games that will be telecast nationwide this fall.
All told, Griffin's Heisman hopes seem endangered only by a pair of intangibles—prejudice and precedent. Some voters, particularly if the contest is at all close, will undoubtedly reject Griffin solely on the grounds that two Heismans are one too many for any player. And if Archie is to endure as something more than one-fifth of a trivia question, he will have to avoid injuries and other turns of fate that caused the other four players who won the award as juniors—Army's Doc Blanchard in 1945, SMU's Doak Walker in 1948, Ohio State's Vic Janowicz in 1950 and Navy's Staubach—to fade in their final seasons.
Margaret Griffin has a feeling that Archie will repeat. "When he was in high school," she says, "I saw it all in this dream. I saw Archie standing with the Heisman Trophy. I saw us standing beside him and all the people gathered around." Have there been sequels? "Well, I had the same dream more than once," she says, giving destiny a prod.
Long before the double features, way back in the barefoot days of Hatfield Bottom, Margaret Griffin had another dream—a home in the green suburbs. How that became a reality evolves, as do all things with the Griffins, from the resourcefulness of the patriarch, who says, "Every time I made one dollar God fixed it so I'd make the next one."
Sometimes in wondrous ways. Several years ago, James Sr. relates, while working the sanitation truck in an exclusive section of town, "I found some stock-market pamphlets in the trash of this older, retired fellow, and I began reading them. I thought you had to be rich to buy stocks, but I learned different. One day I told the man—he was out gardening—that I wanted to send my kids to college. So he took me inside, called his broker and I bought two shares of Big Bear Supermarkets at $6 each." Soon James Sr. was reading The Wall Street Journal during breaks, buying a few shares when he could, until by 1966 his investments had earned enough to help James Jr. with his partial grant-in-aid to Muskingum and, two years later, to put a $6,000 down payment on a $28,000 dream house.
Today the Griffin's two-story stucco and brick home is a model of middle-class Middle America. There is an American eagle over the doorway, a barbecue out back and a station wagon in the driveway. The neighbors on both sides are white.
James Jr. lives just up the winding road. Larry, who is completing his master's degree in physical education while working as an instructor at the Columbus East YMCA, resides with his wife in a nearby apartment. Daryle, after a six-month tour as a second lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve, returned home this summer to take a job with Ohio Bell. And Archie, who lived in an off-campus apartment with Cornelius Greene his first three seasons, and Raymond, who rooms in an OSU dorm, meet with their brothers at the Kenview Road homestead most weekends. That is when the recreation room becomes football central, a time when James Sr. holds critiques and moves the furniture back to demonstrate the subtleties of the forearm shiver.
And it is a time to pass the praise around. James Sr. says, "Larry would have been as famous as Archie if he went to Ohio State." James Jr. says that Raymond, who will start at safety this season while waiting to take over for Archie, has "more speed, agility and finesse than any back in the country." And Archie says, along with everyone else, "Keith will be the best in the family. He and Raymond could both win the Heisman, I think."
The clinics are invariably cut short for a more pressing concern—work. Incredibly, in addition to his weekday grind at the sanitation department, the foundry and the high school, James Sr. also holds down two part-time janitorial jobs on weekends. Piling mops, buckets, brooms and assorted Heisman hopefuls into the station wagon, Griffin & Sons spend eight to 10 hours every weekend cleaning up a warehouse and a candy factory.
"Sometimes I'm so tired I can't see," James Sr. said recently, rearranging the New Testament miniatures in the living room of his immaculate home. "But it's worth it. Now we are free of all the trouble. Now we don't have to run anymore."
Archie does, and rumors are that he may be headed straight into the open arms of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the new NFL franchise which will play its first season in 1976. James Jr. thinks that Archie Griffin will be a name to build a franchise around, a gate builder whose contract could bring $2.3 million with one Heisman, $4 million with two. Archie will hear none of it. No talk about second Heismans. No prattle about the pros. "My goal is the team's goal," he says, straightening his halo, "to win the national championship and go to the Rose Bowl for the fourth year in a row."
If and when depends in no small part on Archie's old roomie, Cornelius Greene, an irrepressible scrambler and the Buckeyes' second-leading rusher last season with 842 yards. They are an odd couple, No. 45 and No. 7, a votary and a voluptuary who were shacked up with a monster stereo that almost blasted them and Gladys Knight and the Pips into orbit. Greene, who bills himself as Mr. Flamboyant and tools around in a 1975 Grand Prix with the license plates FLAM 7, claims, "Archie and I complement each other. I'm flashy, he's classy. When I first met Archie he dressed like a little 'Bama boy. Man, if you can believe it, he wore black shoes with everything. But now I got him shaped up. Now he's got red shoes, green shoes, all color shoes."
What Greene got in return was religion. "When I wasn't starting right away," says the Flam, "I was very disappointed, very low. I'd sit there watching Kojak on TV and Archie'd be reading the Bible. It got to working on me, you know, and pretty soon he made me receive Jesus Christ into my life. I have found that being a quarterback under Woody Hayes, you need all the faith you can get."
Faith and occasional reprimands for straying from that big game plan in the sky. Recently, says Greene, he and two other players were lounging in the apartment, cutting classes and feeding the stereo when Archie walked in, fresh from giving his 3D speech. "He just looked at us," says Greene, "and then he said, 'I come back from telling kids to stay in school, and here you guys are cutting classes. That's wrong, man.' That's all he had to say. We all felt bad. If it had been anybody else but Archie, we'd have thrown him out. But not Archie. We respect him too much. That dude never does anything wrong."
So on goes Archie Griffin, myth and man, on down the straight and narrow, down the practice field—40, 50, 60 yards, running out every play, top speed and straight into the end zone every time. And on he goes, taking classes in industrial management in the summer, pushing himself because of his father's disapproval of the many black athletes who fail to get their degrees. Ever the over-achiever, this school year Archie Griffin will graduate one quarter ahead of his class. "Coach Hayes always says you either get better or you get worse," he says. "There's no in-between."
Loretta Laffitte can attest to that. At last report she claimed that since the afternoon of her big confession, Archie has not been late picking her up.