Sports Legends: The Other Archie Griffin
Do you remember Archie Griffin, the Ohio State running back and the only college football player ever to win two Heisman Trophies, in 1974 and 1975?
Well, this is not about that Archie Griffin. This is about the Archie Griffin who played for Valdosta High School Coach Wright Bazemore’s perennial Georgia State High School Football Champions. And the Archie Griffin who lettered as a freshman at Georgia Tech and as a sophomore at the University of Georgia.
“From the time I was seven years old I looked forward to playing football for Georgia Tech,” Griffin said. “But when I saw what was required in mechanical drawing I realized Tech was not for me. I could not draw a straight line with a T-square.”
So, after one quarter at Tech, Archie became a Georgia Bulldog, not as a football player but as a golfer. He earned varsity letters as a sophomore, junior and senior.
He played in the Sou-thern Intercollegiate Golf Championships and earned the respect of everyone. But the man of the hour, whom Griffin played against, was a young Wake Forest golfer named Arnold Palmer.
This Archie Griffin is not a one-dimensional guy. Be-sides his football career as an All-State end (6-4, 205) on a Valdosta state championship team, he helped lead the basketball team to a state title. He played both the outfield and first base on the baseball team. He was a member of Hi-Y service club and performed in the senior class play.
That was then, not now.
Now, at age 76, he is a member of Rotary, the Valdosta Touchdown Club, the local hospital authority and serves on the Board of Directors of the Boys’ Club and United Way. He has been a director of the hospital authority for 27 years.
Briggs Smith, a retired medical doctor who grew up with Archie, said, “If there ever was a renaissance man it was Archie Griffin. He did it all – football, basketball, baseball and champion golfer.
“But he was no more an all-round athlete than he was a student of the opera. He and his grandmother never missed an opera when it came to Atlanta.
“As much as he loved football I think he loved the opera more. I’m telling you this guy Griffin could do it all. He was the best at every thing he did and he did everything,” Smith said.
Johnny Lastinger, publisher of Valdosta Magazine, played football with Archie at Valdosta High School on two region championship teams and one state championship team.
“I don’t think we could have won it all without Archie,” he said. He was a terror on defense and one of the surest pass receivers I ever saw.
“But he was more than a jock. He was an active member of the First United Methodist Church and president of the Valdosta Country Club.”
Lastinger and Griffin played on the Valdosta High football team when it was an honor just to make the team, be it first, second, third or fourth.
Archibald Little Griffin was born and raised in Valdosta. His father died when he was five years old. He was raised by his mother, Martica Griffin, and his grandmother Flora Wain-wright.
He started playing golf at age six and at age 13 won two of the biggest tournaments in the state – the Valdosta Open and the Jack Oliver tournament.
“I would be playing today,” he said, “if it were not for back surgery and continuous lower back pains.”
The pains started at Valdosta but they were not enough to keep Archie from getting football scholarship offers to Alabama, Clemson and Tech.
The offer from Tech included a year of seasoning at Baylor Prep in Chattanooga, Tenn.
That was the era when Tech Coach Bobby Dodd often sent college prospects to Baylor.
When the Korean War broke out in 1950, Griffin postponed his collegiate career. He applied to and was accepted at the U.S. Navy Officer Candidate school. He served in Guam and at the Pentagon. He won the All-Navy Western Golf tournament.
Golf gave him more than just a game. At teammate Frank Stevenson’s wedding he met his future wife, the former Lee Whitfield. The Griffins have been married 52 years. They have one son, Scott, age 49, a veterinarian; a daughter, Leeanne Landrum, 46, and six grandchildren.
Today, Griffin lives in his native Valdosta. He retired after spending 40 years in the insurance business.
Now Buckeye fans, tell me about that other Archie Griffin.