Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Archie Griffin: 2-Time Heisman Winner

Posted on December 11, 2022 by Dean Hybl
Archie Griffin

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is the only football player ever to capture college football’s top individual award twice.

As a star running back for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Archie Griffin claimed the Heisman Trophy during his junior season in 1974 and then was able to repeat the honor the following season.

Griffin joined the Buckeyes for the 1972 season, which happened to be the first in which freshmen were eligible to play varsity football, and made an immediate impact. After fumbling in his only carry of his first game, Griffin more than made up for it in his second game by rushing for 237 yards against North Carolina. By the end of the season, Griffin had rushed for 867 yards.

The following year, Griffin established himself as one of the top runners in the country with 1,428 yards on the ground. Though only a sophomore, he finished fifth in the Heisman voting. Amazingly, the Buckeyes, which finished 10-0-1 and ranked second in college football that season, had three players in the top six in the Heisman voting. In addition to Griffin, offensive lineman John Hicks finished second and linebacker Randy Gradishar was sixth.

In 1974 Griffin rushed for 1,620 yards and 12 touchdowns on his way to easily winning the Heisman. Griffin’s point total of 1920 was more than double that of second place Anthony Davis from USC (819 points). The Buckeyes were ranked first in the country for much of the season, but lost a close 16-13 decision to Michigan State late in the regular season. They then lost one of the most memorable games in Rose Bowl history 18-17 to USC.

Though Griffin rushed for fewer yards and touchdowns in 1975 (1,450, 4 TD) than the three runners who finished behind him in the Heisman voting (2nd: Chuck Muncie, 1,460 & 13 TD; 3rd: Ricky Bell, 1,875 yards, 13 TD; 4th: Tony Dorsett, 1,544 yards, 11 TD), he still won his second straight trophy in a landslide with 1,800 points, compared to 730 for Muncie in second. Ohio State was the number one team in the country throughout the season and went undefeated until surprisingly losing in the Rose Bowl 23-10 to UCLA.

During his career, Griffin rushed for at least 100 yards 34 times, including 31 straight. His 5,589 career rushing yards were a record before being broken the next season by Tony Dorsett.

After playing both high school and college football in Ohio, it was fitting that Griffin was selected in the first round of the 1976 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Unfortunately, though Griffin had a solid NFL career, he was never able to live up to his college resume. He rushed for 625 yards during his rookie season and had a career-high 688 yards in 1979.

He was a member of the Bengals during the 1981 season when they reached Super Bowl XVI, but Griffin contributed to their 26-21 loss by fumbling a squib kick during the game.

Griffin retired from the Bengals following the 1982 season with 2,808 career rushing yards and 4,415 total yards from scrimmage.

Following his playing career, Griffin completed his MBA from Ohio State and served as Assistant Director of Athletics and President of the Ohio State alumni association.

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