Q&A: Archie Griffin On Life, Legacy, and Leadership

Q&A: Archie Griffin On Life, Legacy, and Leadership

Two-time Heisman winner and Ohio State Buckeye legend, Archie Griffin, was recently inducted into the Athletes in Action Hall of Faith at the 12th Annual Night of Champions. The former president of The Ohio State University Alumni Association was awarded along with Olympic gold medalist and 10-year veteran of the US Women’s Soccer Team, Cat Whitehill.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

AIA: You were in the business of relationships as president of the OSU Alumni Association. What relationships do you still have to work on?

AG: I think you work on all your relationships. You want to have good relations certainly with everybody you meet. That’s not always the case, but you want to have good relationships with people. I always figured the way that you do that is to treat people the way you want to be treated and following The Golden Rule. I always felt that if you treat people right, good things would happen and so that’s what I try to practice more than anything. That to me is a key quality to be successful in leadership positions.

AIA: How would you define hard work?

AG: I define that as being totally committed to what you’re doing. When I was young, I came across a man in junior high school who was an adviser for our student council, Oscar Gill. I’ll never forget he sat down and talked with us about what he called the 3 D’s: Desire, Dedication and Determination.

Those 3 D’s have pretty much been a model for me and my motto because in anything I try to do whether it was on any of the jobs that I’ve ever held or any of the sports that I’ve ever played, I try to do it with those 3 D’s in mind because they added up to being totally committed.

I think when you’re totally committed to something regardless of what the results are going to be, you can always feel good about yourself because you know you did the best you could do. Nobody can take that away.

AIA: You’ve been characterized by your humility and work with the youth of Central Ohio through the foundation fund you and you wife, Bonita, created. Why is service important to you?

AG: People need help at times. My father worked three jobs and my mother was a homemaker. It wasn’t easy coming up. It was tough at times—although I didn’t know that because they made it seem like it was pretty smooth, which I’m grateful for. My family was always willing to help others and we know there were others in our neighborhood who were willing to help us. I always felt that if somebody needs a helping hand you do what you can to help.

My former football coach, Woody Hayes, drove the point home to us about the importance of helping others because he always talked about paying it forward. The guys that had the opportunity to play for Woody—you can see vividly that they’re doing things in their communities with charities to help others. That just shows me that they got the point that Coach Hayes was talking about in regards to paying it forward.

AIA: You’ve been around the game of football for decades. What concerns you about the game today or something you would like to see change?

AG: Certainly it’s come more to light the injury factor with concussions. That bothers me because the game of football is a very physical game and if you play the game, most likely there’s going to be a time when you’re going to get hurt. You don’t like to think about that very much, but most likely somewhere along the line that’s going to happen to you and you hope that it’s not something that’s going to affect you for the rest of your life.

The game of football, in my opinion, is a great game. I certainly enjoyed it when I played it. Quite frankly, when you’re playing it you don’t think about those things as far as injuries are concerned. It’s done a lot for me and my family. My six brothers, all of us, went to college and played football on college scholarships and were able to get our degrees. That meant a lot to us because that was a goal that our parents had for us.

They wanted all of us to get a college education and we were able to get that because we were able to play the game and have some success. I always said football for me was a means to an end. Even my sister ran track on college scholarship so we were all able to get our college education through athletics. It’s been a true blessing.

AIA: You quoted James 1:2-3 in your commencement speech to OSU graduates a few years ago and talked about life’s trials making you stronger. When’s the last time your faith was tested?

AG: That [verse] is a big one. All of us are going to have tough times in our lives and we’ve got to know or have some sort of mechanism to deal with those tough times. For me, that verse has helped me keep things in perspective. Those tough times that I go through are going to make me a better person overall.

Your faith is tested everyday. It’s tested when someone does something while you’re driving a car when they might pull out in front of you. It’s tested by something you might see on TV or something you don’t like that’s going on in this country. I wouldn’t say when’s the last time, I would say when has it not been tested.

AIA: What’s the life lesson that your parents taught you that you were sure to teach your children?

AG: One thing I appreciate about my parents is that they taught us how important priorities are. The priorities they gave us was certainly a belief in God and that’s certainly a priority I had for my kids. The second was to get a college education and the third was to stay in athletics. I pretty much had the same priorities for my kids. I want to make sure they worked extremely hard at whatever they do. I want them to be the very best that they can possibly be. They know those 3 D’s very well.

AIA: Your legacy has been defined with the help of so many. How would you like to be remembered?

AG: I’ve never considered myself a hero. To put it simply, I’ve always wanted to live my life so that I would not embarrass my family. I’d like to be remembered as a guy who always did the best he could with what he had.

All those [awards] are nice, but they certainly were gifts from God and I’d like to glorify God through those gifts. Without a doubt He put me in the right place at the right time with the right people to make those things happen. I’m very thankful for that.