Beyond the Gridiron -- The Life and Times of Woody Hayes

photo of Archie Griffin

Subject: Archie Griffin
Interviewer: David Crouse
Transcript: Sydney Meyers

The segments included in this interview excerpt were recorded during October 2002, as part of Beyond the Gridiron -- The Life and Times of Woody Hayes. The documentary is a co-production with the Crouse Entertainment Group and WOSU-Columbus, Ohio. Archie Griffin played Tailback at Ohio State (1972-1975) and went on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals(1977-1983). He is the only athlete to win the Heisman Trophy twice.

How would you describe Woody Hayes?
One of the things that I liked most about Woody was the fact that Woody Hayes was a very very caring person. He didn't mind people thinking of him as being rough, tough, hard, but he was really a very very kind man and a man who was very educated. He knew a little bit about just about everything you could think about. His real love was military history. You know I'll never forget when I was playing at Ohio State, and on Thursday evenings after we would practice, Woody would always take a group of us to Children's Hospital to visit with kids that were in the burn unit or kids that were having problems. He didn't want anybody to know that. He certainly didn't want the press to know that. And there was a door that they had that he would bring us in where nobody would know that we would be coming in. And we'd go up there and we'd visit with the kids and we'd just have a wonderful time. But things like that Woody did not want people to know because he thought people would think that he was soft. But he was a very very caring man. And that's really one of the best ways that I could describe Woody is being a very very caring person.

How did Woody Hayes recruit you?
I'll never forget when I was in the recruiting season when I was in high school and the first time that we went out to dinner, I was expecting him to talk to me about ah Ohio State, and what kind of player I could be at Ohio State, or where I would fit in as a player at Ohio State. He never said anything about that. That whole evening all he talked to me about was education and the importance of me getting an education. As a matter of fact, I left that meeting thinking that he didn't want me to play football for him. I went home that night my father asked me how the dinner went, and I told him, I said, "Dad you know, I don't, I don't think he wants me to play for him." I thought maybe he looked at my size and figured you know you're too small to play for Ohio State, you better make sure you get your education and so you can get yourself a good job. But that wasn't the case. I think it was that he just genuinely cared about me and was interested in my future, and wanted to make sure that I was interested in an education. The first meeting that we attended as a team, the first thing that Coach Hayes told us was that if we were in school for anything else other than to get a good education, then we might as well get up and leave this meeting. He said, "an athlete without an education could be headed for a bad situation." I mean those were the types of things that he would say, and that told me that the man really cared about me individually and it certainly showed me that he cared about the members of the teams that I was on.

Why do you think that the press fixated on a different side of Woody Hayes?
I think that they knew that he would get excited. They knew that he was tough, I mean he was tough. I'm not saying that he wasn't tough, but he was tough, but he was fair. And that's a very key point with Coach Hayes, he was fair. You could always expect that that he was gonna make his decision and he was gonna be fair, no matter what the case was. But I think the reason that they used to fixate on Woody, particular out in California more than any place, when Ohio State would go to the Rose Bowls, I think the press pretty much tried to egg him on get him to get upset about something, because they wanted to see you know a temper tantrum or something to that effect. Bu t Coach Hayes was not that type of person. I mean, he certainly would go off if he felt that somebody on his team was being wronged, as he did in that game, I guess it was 1971 with the yard marker situation where a penalty flag wasn't called or we were interfered with or whatever. And I guess you go back and look at those tapes and what he said was right, and when he found something was right, you know he would stand up for it. And he wanted his teams to know that he was standing up for it.

Why do you think so many OSU players had a love/hate relationship with Woody Hayes?
They loved the man because they know that the man cared a great deal about them. I mean they knew that Woody was tough. I mean there's no question about it. Woody felt that the only way that you're going to be the best that you can be is that you work hard. I mean he would work you. There's no question about that. As a matter of fact, he would tell you that you know you're cheating yourself if you're not giving a hundred, a hundred and ten percent, you're cheating yourself. And the only time that he would really get upset with a player was when he felt that a player was not giving their all. That's when he would get upset with a player. I mean there were many occasions where Woody would get a player out on the field and really ream him out in front of the team, but I can also tell you that ah when that player ah would go in the locker room after the practice or whatever, and he'd come out of that locker room, he had to walk past Woody's little cubby hole, in the athletic facility, and when that player would be walking out of that cubby hole, Woody would be standing at that door, and Woody would call that player in and he'd tell him why he did what he did, and that player would come out pretty much ah understanding, you know, the situation and why Coach Hayes reamed him out the way that he reamed him out. But the next day in practice, Coach Hayes would watch that player and that player would do something that might have just been halfway decent, Woody Hayes would then stop the practice and tell the players how great that young man did on that particular play in practice. So he knew how to bring a guy down, But he also knew how to bring him back up. And when you can do that and the player can understand why he was reamed out, then that helps to understand the man more.

Describe how you would prepare for an OSU football game.
Preparation for the game started Sunday after we had played the previous Saturday because that's when we would start watching tape and starting talking about our next week's opponent. And I think Woody was very good at preparing us for opponents. In particular, let me just give you a situation with the University of Michigan, say we're getting ready to play Michigan that week. On a Monday would be our first day of practice and he would have one of the former players who had played against Michigan come in and talk with us, and usually it was a player that had had something bad happen to him in that Michigan game. And they'd come in and they'd talk with us about Michigan and they'd tell us about how rotten Michigan was, and you could see the guys getting stirred up. And I remember my first year, my freshman year, and I lived in Columbus all my whole life and I knew how important the Ohio State Michigan game was. But that particular freshman year of mine is when I really knew how important the Ohio State and Michigan was because that Monday of that Michigan week he had one of the players come in and he talked with us and ah he really spoke of how terrible Michigan was, and how bad they were, and how they'd do things to to try to get an advantage and the whole works, and he had us believing that Michigan was the worst team that you could possibly ever ah want to play against, and he had you feeling like you wanted to kill them. And I remember the end of his talk, at the end of his talk as I looked around that room, I saw tears coming out of ah my teammates' eyes because they were getting so fired up. And I remember the end of his talk he said you know, "this is not a game, this is war." And when we went out of that room for practice we had a very spirited practice.

He would always come up with some sort of story that may have happened in a Michigan game or he would tell you something that you gotta expect from Michigan. And it was always something that would get you riled up. But he didn't want to get you too riled up at that time because he wanted to wait 'til game day to really get you to the point where you would want to just explode. And come game day, you come into the locker room and it's a different week. It's a different week than any normal week because it's quieter; people aren't talking a lot. They're getting dressed, not a whole lot of talk going on, ah but they're thinking about their assignments. Then you look at your schedule, you go out to do your warm-ups, you come back in, and everybody had to meet on the bottom floor, in our locker room in Ohio Stadium. And you could see Woody as everybody's start sitting down, just pacing ah the floor, with this look, with his hand ah on his side, and his glasses looking down, and kind of biting his lip a little bit, knowing that ah that he was really getting up for this football game. And then he'd come out with some sort of speech that would have you just fired up leaving that room. And then you'd go out and you'd try to play the best game that you could ever play. And that's just Woody Hayes. I thought he was great at getting a guy ready to play in a football game. He'd have you fired up leaving ah the locker room. He'd come up with something, and I think what he would do is he would work on that all week long, and by the time game time came along, he'd have you ready to just run out of the locker room and just explode. And I think it worked.

Describe the sights and sounds of when you walked into the OSU football stadium for a game.
Well, first of all any Saturday in Ohio Stadium is great. The sights, well you see a lot of scarlet and gray and you see the scarlet really stands out. So you look for that because that's comforting, and when you go out to warm up, you see all the people in the stands. But everybody's not in the stands during warm-up time. When it really hits you, is when you run out of the tunnel into the stadium when it comes time to play the game, because then you see that everybody's in the stadium and all that scarlet and gray, and mostly scarlet because that's what you see most, are there rooting for you. I mean, it's really a wonderful feeling to have that happen as a player. I remember my first time seeing that it really was overwhelming to see that many people ah stand up and they were there to watch your football team play a game. You gotta remember I was just coming out of high school and you know we might not have had about maybe a thousand or fifteen hundred maybe at the most at a game, so and then to see at that time eighty six thousand people in the stadium to watch you play. I mean, that was truly exciting and it was something that really just made you, just made you feel like you want to go out and just conquer the whole world.