When we lived in Brillion, Wisconsin, in the early 70s, I was involved with the active Jaycees group there. One of the many projects the Jaycees were involved with was supporting local school athletic programs. To that end, the group would sponsor an a spring athletic banquet every year at an area supper club.
Part of that sponsorship included hiring a high caliber guest speaker for the banquet, usually someone from the world of sports. The most memorable speaker I recall hearing was Al McGuire, head coach of the Marquette University basketball team. He told the young athletes in attendance that they should all go to college and get a degree and then tend bar for six months and drive a cab for six months and then they would really be educated.
Another year, the speaker was Archie Griffin. Archie, as you may recall, played football at Ohio State and is the only player ever to win two Heisman trophies, which he did, back to back, in 1974 and 1975. (He placed fifth in the Heisman voting the first year he was nominated, his sophomore year!) He also holds the distinction of starting in four consecutive Rose Bowls. Legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes said of his star player, "He's a better young man than he is a football player, and he's the best football player I've ever seen.” Archie went on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals for several years.
Archie spoke at the evening banquet on the appointed day and then spent the night at a motel in town. The next day, he needed a ride to the airport in Green Bay and, somehow, I was selected to drive him there. It seemed like a lot of sports-minded people would have been clamoring to escort this well-known running back to where he needed to go. They weren’t. The only possible reason for that I can come up with is that Archie wasn’t a Badger or a Green Bay Packer. Their loss was our gain.
Archie needed a lift on a school day and it was such a special honor, we decided to make it a family affair. We took our son David out of school for the day (first grade if my memory serves), and Sarah, David and our pre-school daughter Rachel and I piled into our 1972 Datsun 210 station wagon and picked Archie up at the motel.
Last week I wrote about a great little restaurant, Rudy’s Lunch in Brillion. That’s where we took Archie for breakfast that morning before we left for the airport. Archie was duly impressed with Rudy’s and ate…….well, like you’d expect a football player to eat. Actually, Archie wasn’t that big, I think he stood about 5’9” and weighed about 190. But the thighs on that Heisman winner told the tale: they were like mighty oak trees!
Archie lived up to coach Hayes’ description: he was extremely polite, friendly, and very kind to our family, especially to the kids. David had the foresight to ask Archie to autograph a few 3 X 5 cards for his classmates. Archie talked quietly and with some humor with David and Rachel and posed for pictures with us when we got to the airport. We enjoyed our brief visit with one of the greatest college football players of all time.