Archie Griffin Talks Ohio State's Greatest Running Backs, His Favorite Ohio State Memories and the Future of Buckeyes Football With Ryan Day in Latest Episode of "Tradition Talk"

By Chase Brown on June 30, 2023 at 6:57 pm

Archie Griffin and Ryan Day are the latest Buckeyes to sit down for a “Tradition Talk” conversation about the history of Ohio State football and the future of the program.

As each episode of the Ohio State-produced series has, the conversation between the head coach and Buckeye legend started with a discussion about the program's all-time running backs. However, when Day asked Griffin to make a Mount Rushmore of Ohio State ball carriers, the latter didn't entertain the question.

"I hate that question," Griffin said with a laugh. "Keith Byars and I had a conversation on our way to Jeff Logan's golf outing in Canton, Ohio, a couple of weeks ago. We came to the conclusion that we evade the question. That's what I'll do here. I'll evade the question. Mount Rushmore has four presidents on it. You cannot boil Ohio State's tradition of running backs down to four. We've had a boatload – a truckload, even – of great running backs here at Ohio State."

Still, Griffin couldn't help but name some of the best ball carriers in Ohio State history, reflecting on the legendary efforts of Chic Harley, Les Horvath and Vic Janowicz, along with the more recent efforts of Ezekiel Elliott and J.K. Dobbins.

"You go back to Chic Harley, the player everyone says built Ohio Stadium because of his performances," Griffin said. "You see these Mount Rushmores, and they leave off Les Horvath, Vic Janowicz and (Howard) "Hopalong" Cassady. A lot of times, you leave those guys off. But there are a tremendous amount of running backs at Ohio State who were terrific for the teams they played on.

"I feel uncomfortable leaving any of those guys out. Most of the time, you hear about the most recent guys, like Zeke and Dobbins. But there were guys between there that were fabulous. The (Tim) Spencers, the Eddie Georges, the Keith Byars – people like that. I could go on and on, so I feel it's unfair to pick a Mount Rushmore of running backs because we've had some great ones."

Next, Day asked Griffin to name some of his favorite memories at Ohio State. However, Day wanted him to steer clear of the football field, where Griffin was a two-time Heisman Trophy winner, the only player in college football history to accomplish that feat.

"First, the fact that I received a quality education here was very important because that's what I came to school to do. Football was a vehicle I used to receive a college education that I wanted," Griffin said. "Also, the opportunity to play in Ohio Stadium was tremendous. I'll never forget the first time walking out on that field and seeing the 86,000 people there. It was an awesome, awesome feeling. During my time, we never lost a game in Ohio Stadium. To me, that is something I am most proud of. We went four years without losing in that stadium... or to 'That Team Up North,' we didn't lose to them."

As the conversation continued, Day thanked Griffin and other Ohio State legends for the standard of excellence they created as Buckeyes. Day said those same standards exist in the program today.

With the 2023 season drawing closer, Day told Griffin that Ohio State will work to honor the past, defend the present and protect the future for the remainder of the summer before doing the same thing week to week in the fall as the Buckeyes compete for a Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff title.

"I think about all the players and coaches that have come before who have played (at Ohio Stadium) and on that field," Day said. "You have to hold up that standard. There has been a standard set over time. All the folks that are in the stadium have passed that tradition down from generation to generation. It means so much to all the people in the stadium. Our players, they feel that. The longer they are here, the more they understand that and talk about that."

"Absolutely," Griffin continued. "The tradition that is most important is the tradition of winning. We have that winning tradition here. That is so, so very important. It's a tradition that everyone expects. It's great to see that you have continued that tradition and will continue that tradition. That's part of who we are."

The conversation between Day and Griffin ended with a twist, as Griffin took the role of the interviewer rather than the interviewee. He used the opportunity to ask Day why he came to Ohio State as a quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer in 2017 and how that experience has molded him into the coach he is six years later.

"Competing at the highest level," Day said of why he became a Buckeye. "It doesn't get any bigger than Ohio State – to chase that one percent, the stakes are high and you are relevant. It means everything is on the line. If you are the ultimate competitor, that is what attracts you. That adrenaline rush of playing in these kinds of environments and being around that.

"The other part of it is that you don't have to compromise at Ohio State to be the best in the world at what you do. I've learned the kind of recruits we attract and the people here. There is a great feeling of support here. They love the Buckeyes. ... But if I had to say the first reason I came here was to be the best in the world at what you do, and there's no better stage than Ohio State."

"We are glad you came," Griffin responded, encouraging Day about his decision to coach for the Buckeyes. "I'm glad you're doing what you're doing. You have done an absolutely outstanding job. That stuff you talk about, it travels. You will find Ohio State people everywhere. I have had a friend in the alumni association here for about 13 years, and every time we send someone out, they run into Ohio State people."

Day concurred that Ohio State's tradition and popularity are off the charts. He said all a person needs to do is wear an Ohio State logo in any airport in America, and that person will attract attention and perhaps even have an "O-H!" shouted in their direction.

"We have a lot of work to be done. We have a lot of goals to be accomplished this year. But the culture right now – where our team is at, the leadership and the kind of folks who are in the program right now – it's a good group, a special group," Day said. "When you get around these players, coaches and staff, we have something special going. I am excited about this season, but as we know, we are measured by that rivalry game and winning it all, winning championships. We are embracing that. We have had a great offseason. We've worked really hard."

The conversation between Day and Griffin is the sixth episode released by Ohio State as part of its “Tradition Talk” series, which has also featured conversations between Brian Hartline and Marvin Harrison Jr.Steele Chambers and James LaurinaitisDevin Jordan and Emeka Egbuka, Jack Sawyer and C.J. Barnett and Tim Walton and Denzel Burke.

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