Big Enough

You’re Archie Griffin and you’ve always been too little.

Rich Street in Columbus, Ohio, will never be confused with Snob Hill, and when you were growing up the options were limited: play sports or join a gang and put it to “the man.” Your three older brothers were athletes and you were motivated that way: little Archie, tagging along, wanting to be big.

Now “the man” comes to watch little Archie… even if he’s still too little.

That’s what they told you in high school—you’re too little. Recruiters camped at your door… all those coaches coming to the ghetto to see little Archie… but you narrowed it to the Big Ten.

Fine, friends said; maybe Northwestern or Indiana. But not Ohio State. All those big horse fullbacks, three yards and a cloud of dust. You can’t make it, man. Too little. You’ll get lost in the shuffle (at best) or squashed (at worst).

You’d heard that song before. You didn’t like anyone telling you what you could do because you figured you knew your capabilities better than anyone else. You had a name in Columbus. Why start all over again? So you went over to High Street just to show ‘em.

A little dynamo for the football machine in the huge horseshoe stadium on the banks of the Olentangy River. It’s fitting that the stadium rises adjacent to the University’s drama department. Each home Saturday is opening night. Few freshmen make the team and those who do are seldom cast in the lead.

Little Archie, the bit player. Freshman year you were on the scout squad… the hamburger team… cannon fodder. You began to doubt a little. But you dressed with the varsity, and against Iowa, with the Buckeyes in pulverizing form, they put you in for the final minute.

Your number was called. Only you fumbled the pitchout, the ultimate disaster at OSU. Backs who fumble are seldom seen again. Fortunately, the game was won and Ohio State recovered the bobble. But you were not the subject of post-game adulation for your five-second debut.

You were back on the scout team the next practice. It was like being banished into exile. You weren’t on the traveling roster for the North Carolina game and did not spend the night with the team at a Columbus hotel. Instead you spend a long night in the dormitory by yourself, praying and asking the Lord for another chance to play. Not to win or score a touchdown or be a here… just to be called on one more time.

Your second chance came near the end of the first quarter. North Carolina had blocked a punt and taken a surprising lead. When the coach called “Griffin”, you didn’t think he was serious until the guy next to you on the bench jabbed you in the ribs. Hesitantly, you trotted over and asked if you’d heard correctly which drew an incredulous glare and a bark which meant get your 5-8, 188 in motion toward the huddle.

Which you did, only to discover halfway out that you’d forgotten your helmet! You got back off the field and waited a play. Luckily, the coach sent you in again.

What happened next keeps Guinness in business and trivia buffs in form. When the game ended you had gained 239 yards for a single game OSU record. The 86,000 Buckeye devotees stood to cheer little Archie when he left and you gave the Lord a standing ovation when you reached the sidelines.

It has been good since then: Heisman Trophy winner as a junior (although you thought Anthony Davis would get it); twice named Big Ten MVP; 4,139 yards gained in three seasons for a Big Ten record; over 100 yards gained in 22 straight games; twice captain of the Bucks; UPI and Sporting News player of the year; and Rose Bowl victories. The statistics and honors go on and on… and there is still this season to go.

There have been disappointments. The Bucks have failed to win the national title and when you say you’d trade the Heisman Trophy for that, it’s believable. You have stayed refreshingly genuine despite the childlike pandering of OSU gridiron fanatics. Genuine, unassuming, embarrassed when your teammates aren’t given enough credit and attention.

There have been losses. Michigan State, this season’s opener, has always been tough for you. You fumbled away one game. You got blind-sided on a kickoff return and thought you were dying. Then you did die on the inside last season when an MSU back took off for the goal line 88 yards away with the football and national title in his grasp and you thought, “Hey, he’s moving; I hope we catch him,” but no one did.

And there have been the cheap shots and the batterings reserved for the top runners. Your games with Michigan, especially, have been wars which coaches, fans and the media love to fight with other men’s bodies. Against Michigan two years ago you entered the game with a hip pointer and picked up a deep thigh bruise and another hip pointer in the first quarter. The last three quarters were like a lifetime on Rich Street.

And there has been something else… an intangible, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it sort of Griffin-ingredient: a faith and a confident toughness. Your dad was a laborer, working several jobs to put the seven boys and a girl through school. Because of work to be done his father let him play one sport a year when he was in school, and Dad was determined you’d play when and what you wanted.

Your brother Daryl played at Kent State where he was president of the FCA Fellowship. Brother Ray is now a Buckeye defensive back and brother Duncan is a freshman scout teamer this year and your two other younger brothers are making the Griffin name in junior high and senior high.

And the family shared more than a love and talent for athletics—a spiritual togetherness and faith which bulwarked against the tough times. You still attend your boyhood church, Bethel AME, and served as secretary last year for the FCA Fellowship. You and quarterback Cornelius Green and defensive back Tim Fox and others have done a lot of speaking for the Fellowship.

You’re not a gifted speaker and it makes you nervous but you found the answer, just as in football—be yourself; say what’s on your heart. So far it’s been OK. And you really like being with the little kids, helping them get it together.

There’s a hymn you remember from your childhood days, something about “the Lord is all the help we need.” That’s the way you feel about Jesus: he’s there as your strength, he’s allowed you to accomplish things you don’t believe could have happened without the assurance and confidence and power of his presence.

People are learning about your faith. You just want it to be in the right light. You consider Coach Woody Hayes the best technician in the college game but when he tells the press that the Buckeyes have a hard time getting out of the locker room for games because they have to step over you on the floor praying, you don’t laugh and you don’t appreciate it. It’s not something to kid about.

If there is one spiritual struggle you have it’s probably handling fame. You worry about the attention; you worry about what your teammates will think; you worry about people making more of you than you really are. Last winter when you appeared at an honor occasion in New York with Mohammed Ali and some other noted athletes you were only one of a number and even in the background a little… and it made you feel really good.

But you still know your ability and self-worth. Now they’re beginning to say you’re too little to play pro ball. So you might want to stay at home and play for Cleveland or Cincinnati and show ‘em all over again that little Archie is big enough.

-FCA-

You’re Archie Griffin and you’ve always been too little.

Rich Street in Columbus, Ohio, will never be confused with Snob Hill, and when you were growing up the options were limited: play sports or join a gang and put it to “the man.” Your three older brothers were athletes and you were motivated that way: little Archie, tagging along, wanting to be big.

Now “the man” comes to watch little Archie… even if he’s still too little.

That’s what they told you in high school—you’re too little. Recruiters camped at your door… all those coaches coming to the ghetto to see little Archie… but you narrowed it to the Big Ten.

Fine, friends said; maybe Northwestern or Indiana. But not Ohio State. All those big horse fullbacks, three yards and a cloud of dust. You can’t make it, man. Too little. You’ll get lost in the shuffle (at best) or squashed (at worst).

You’d heard that song before. You didn’t like anyone telling you what you could do because you figured you knew your capabilities better than anyone else. You had a name in Columbus. Why start all over again? So you went over to High Street just to show ‘em.

A little dynamo for the football machine in the huge horseshoe stadium on the banks of the Olentangy River. It’s fitting that the stadium rises adjacent to the University’s drama department. Each home Saturday is opening night. Few freshmen make the team and those who do are seldom cast in the lead.

Little Archie, the bit player. Freshman year you were on the scout squad… the hamburger team… cannon fodder. You began to doubt a little. But you dressed with the varsity, and against Iowa, with the Buckeyes in pulverizing form, they put you in for the final minute.

Your number was called. Only you fumbled the pitchout, the ultimate disaster at OSU. Backs who fumble are seldom seen again. Fortunately, the game was won and Ohio State recovered the bobble. But you were not the subject of post-game adulation for your five-second debut.

You were back on the scout team the next practice. It was like being banished into exile. You weren’t on the traveling roster for the North Carolina game and did not spend the night with the team at a Columbus hotel. Instead you spend a long night in the dormitory by yourself, praying and asking the Lord for another chance to play. Not to win or score a touchdown or be a here… just to be called on one more time.

Your second chance came near the end of the first quarter. North Carolina had blocked a punt and taken a surprising lead. When the coach called “Griffin”, you didn’t think he was serious until the guy next to you on the bench jabbed you in the ribs. Hesitantly, you trotted over and asked if you’d heard correctly which drew an incredulous glare and a bark which meant get your 5-8, 188 in motion toward the huddle.

Which you did, only to discover halfway out that you’d forgotten your helmet! You got back off the field and waited a play. Luckily, the coach sent you in again.

What happened next keeps Guinness in business and trivia buffs in form. When the game ended you had gained 239 yards for a single game OSU record. The 86,000 Buckeye devotees stood to cheer little Archie when he left and you gave the Lord a standing ovation when you reached the sidelines.

It has been good since then: Heisman Trophy winner as a junior (although you thought Anthony Davis would get it); twice named Big Ten MVP; 4,139 yards gained in three seasons for a Big Ten record; over 100 yards gained in 22 straight games; twice captain of the Bucks; UPI and Sporting News player of the year; and Rose Bowl victories. The statistics and honors go on and on… and there is still this season to go.

There have been disappointments. The Bucks have failed to win the national title and when you say you’d trade the Heisman Trophy for that, it’s believable. You have stayed refreshingly genuine despite the childlike pandering of OSU gridiron fanatics. Genuine, unassuming, embarrassed when your teammates aren’t given enough credit and attention.

There have been losses. Michigan State, this season’s opener, has always been tough for you. You fumbled away one game. You got blind-sided on a kickoff return and thought you were dying. Then you did die on the inside last season when an MSU back took off for the goal line 88 yards away with the football and national title in his grasp and you thought, “Hey, he’s moving; I hope we catch him,” but no one did.

And there have been the cheap shots and the batterings reserved for the top runners. Your games with Michigan, especially, have been wars which coaches, fans and the media love to fight with other men’s bodies. Against Michigan two years ago you entered the game with a hip pointer and picked up a deep thigh bruise and another hip pointer in the first quarter. The last three quarters were like a lifetime on Rich Street.

And there has been something else… an intangible, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it sort of Griffin-ingredient: a faith and a confident toughness. Your dad was a laborer, working several jobs to put the seven boys and a girl through school. Because of work to be done his father let him play one sport a year when he was in school, and Dad was determined you’d play when and what you wanted.

Your brother Daryl played at Kent State where he was president of the FCA Fellowship. Brother Ray is now a Buckeye defensive back and brother Duncan is a freshman scout teamer this year and your two other younger brothers are making the Griffin name in junior high and senior high.

And the family shared more than a love and talent for athletics—a spiritual togetherness and faith which bulwarked against the tough times. You still attend your boyhood church, Bethel AME, and served as secretary last year for the FCA Fellowship. You and quarterback Cornelius Green and defensive back Tim Fox and others have done a lot of speaking for the Fellowship.

You’re not a gifted speaker and it makes you nervous but you found the answer, just as in football—be yourself; say what’s on your heart. So far it’s been OK. And you really like being with the little kids, helping them get it together.

There’s a hymn you remember from your childhood days, something about “the Lord is all the help we need.” That’s the way you feel about Jesus: he’s there as your strength, he’s allowed you to accomplish things you don’t believe could have happened without the assurance and confidence and power of his presence.

People are learning about your faith. You just want it to be in the right light. You consider Coach Woody Hayes the best technician in the college game but when he tells the press that the Buckeyes have a hard time getting out of the locker room for games because they have to step over you on the floor praying, you don’t laugh and you don’t appreciate it. It’s not something to kid about.

If there is one spiritual struggle you have it’s probably handling fame. You worry about the attention; you worry about what your teammates will think; you worry about people making more of you than you really are. Last winter when you appeared at an honor occasion in New York with Mohammed Ali and some other noted athletes you were only one of a number and even in the background a little… and it made you feel really good.

But you still know your ability and self-worth. Now they’re beginning to say you’re too little to play pro ball. So you might want to stay at home and play for Cleveland or Cincinnati and show ‘em all over again that little Archie is big enough.

-FCA-

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