ON FOOTBALL FIELDS ACROSS THE COUNTRYArchie Griffin is a legend. And while he may be best known on the Ohio State University campus for the twin Heisman Trophies he brought home during his time as a Buckeye—a record that still stands—or the four Big Ten Conference titles or the record-making four Rose Bowl starts, at the Concession Golf Club, and the surrounding communities of Bradenton and Sarasota, Griffin is known for something else as well—philanthropy. With the eighth annual Archie Griffin Celebrity Golf Classic bringing professional athletes from across the nation to the Concession Golf Course for a charity scramble to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota County, SRQ got in on the huddle to see what keeps Griffin running.

SRQ: People know you primarily from your football career. When did golf grab you, and how did it grab you? Archie Griffin

I always enjoyed watching golf because Jack Nicklaus has the Memorial Tournament in Columbus and Dublin, Ohio. But I really got involved with golf when I was playing professional football. My teammates would always go out on our day off and play the game. I used to get invited to play in golf scrambles and I would deny them because I didn’t play. My teammate finally said, man, you might as well go out there and play. They’re scrambles, he said, you can’t expect to have a great time but you can learn the game. So I borrowed some clubs and played in the scramble.

Were you surprised that it captured you like this? It seems to almost be the opposite of football. It’s challenging, and that’s what captures you more than anything. How can that little white ball sit there and you have so much difficulty trying to get it to go where you want it to go? It doesn’t seem like it should be hard, because most of us probably played baseball. We can hit a ball coming at us. But this ball is just sitting right there on a tee, and people have problems hitting it where they want it to go. 

Are challenges something that attract you? Challenges always keep you going, and this event certainly is one that I enjoy.

Did philanthropy attract you as a challenge?  My former football coach, Woody Hayes, was a great football coach, but I always felt he was an even better person than he was a coach. He cared about people. And one of the things that he always talked to us about, year in and year out, was paying forward. He got it from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, Compensation. He always said you can never pay back the good things that someone may have done for you, but you can always pay forward by helping somebody else. To this day, a lot of Woody Hayes’ former players are in their communities doing things to help others or paying forward. 

Why did you want to support the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County in particular? There’s nothing better than helping young people be better in their future. Our young people are our future. We’ve got to make sure that they have every opportunity to be the very best that they can be, so that they can go on and do their thing for this country and the world that we live in. Boys and Girls Clubs has always been an organization that helps young people with educational programs, nutritional programs, sports
programs—things that will help them be better in the long run. They do a good job of making sure that the young people are well rounded, and prepare them for life. 

We all know your athletic career from college on, but were sports a big outlet for you when you were even younger?  I come from a fairly large family—six brothers and a sister—and I’m the middle boy. All seven of us boys played sports; all went to college on football scholarships. And my sister went to college on a track and field scholarship. When I was in high school I played three sports: football, wrestling, track. Even growing up, it was important to me to do something every season. And that wrestling and running track all helped me on the football field. Wrestling helped me so much with mental toughness. 

Did the athlete’s mindset affect how you approached new situations off the field?  Oh, absolutely. When you get involved in sports, one of the things that I think is most important is that you do learn how to handle challenges. Sports teach you, especially the game of football in particular, how to get up after you get knocked down. And to me that’s the biggest lesson that you can learn, because in life things don’t always go the way you want them to go. There are certainly going to be those times where it’s tough, where you do get knocked down, and the question is going to be whether you’re going to sulk, lay around and do nothing, or are you going to get up and try to make it right, or try to make it better.

Can you think of a particular time in your life when you had to get back up?  I’ve had many of those situations. Whether it’s in business, or whether it’s when I was president and CEO of Ohio State University Alumni Association. You have to deal with day-to-day business and things don’t always go the way you want. But you have to get up after you get knocked down. That’s just part of it and it’s just part of life as far as I’m concerned. Life doesn’t always give you a cake; sometimes it gives you some bitter experiences. 

Football and philanthropy also seemlike odd bedfellows. Did you find the skills translate from one to the other?  The fact of the matter is, football also teaches you to be a team player. And the way I see it, in this society we’re in, we’re all in this together. We’ve got to do what we can to make our society better. So from that standpoint, I would like to see a lot of people doing things to help others, or paying forward, because it makes everyone better.