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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.