It was partly his suggestion for the meeting, but Terrelle Pryor knew what he was getting himself into as he walked to the front door of Archie Griffin’s house.
The junior quarterback for Ohio State is one of six players suspended to start the 2011 season, and like the others he was unhappy with his situation. So it was that Dec. 27, two days before the Buckeyes were due to arrive in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, the players found themselves seeking an audience from one man who could speak to both former players and university alumni: Archie Griffin, the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner and CEO of the school’s alumni association.
Arriving at his house in suburban Columbus, the Buckeyes reached Griffin’s front door. It was emblazoned with a Block ‘O.’
“We knew what to expect before we walked in the door,” Pryor said.
So began a lesson that lasted an hour and a half designed to both help the players understand the magnitude of their actions as well as find a way to communicate their remorse to a passionate fan base.
One week after the meeting, Griffin told BuckeyeSports.com that he felt the players had truly learned their lesson.
“When they came over, I could tell that they were sorry,” he said. “They apologized to me. I represent all those different areas and they wanted me to know that they were sorry. They wanted me to let alumni know that they were sorry and let former players know that they were sorry for what had happened.”
The meeting was partially the brainchild of OSU head coach Jim Tressel. After meeting Dec. 26 with the suspended players, Tressel asked Griffin if he would be willing to talk to the players the following day. The former player had the day off, so rather than have him come to his office across the street from the team’s practice facility Griffin invited them to his house.
Once there, he led them to his basement emblazoned where memorabilia from his stellar career – as well as items belonging to youngest son Adam Griffin, a freshman defensive back for the Buckeyes – dominates the landscape. The former Buckeye pulled up a chair in front of his pool table while the current players grabbed chairs, arranged them in a semicircle facing him and began to listen.
For a group that had sold Big Ten championship rings, game-worn jerseys, Gold Pants charms earned for beating Michigan and even a sportsmanship award, the ensuing conversation was a serious reminder of what they had done.
“You’ve got to understand I’ve been around this thing for a while and I’ve been around football for a long, long time and I know those things happen,” Griffin said. “People have sold all kinds of memorabilia. Some people get in trouble when they need dollars to help families, kind of like what these kids needed.
“Yeah, it bothered me that they told them but having been in the game and around people that have done that type of thing, I could see how it happens. I don’t like it and don’t condone what they did because I don’t think it was right but at the same time I can understand what they’re going through.”
Griffin told the players that they first had to make sure they had the support of their teammates as they prepared for a bowl showdown with Arkansas. That had already been secured, so he told them to be prepared for negative feedback from the public.
Pryor said he has received more positive feedback than negative but that the negative comments have been particularly nasty.
The players told Tressel they felt they had the right to sell the items in question because they were their personal property. Griffin came down on the side of the players.
“(We) talked about when they did it that they didn’t realize that they were doing something that was wrong,” he said. “They actually thought that the gifts were theirs and you would think that. It was given to you, so it should be yours. They recognized and realized that they had made a mistake.”
Griffin pulled out all the stops for the visit. Although his mother has the Gold Pants he earned, he removed his Big Ten championship rings from a safe and had them on display as well.
Pryor said the message delivered was a familiar one.
“Anytime you get around Archie it’s cool to be around him,” the quarterback said. “It was the same stuff we’ve been hearing from Coach Tressel. You’ve got to cherish your items and stuff like that.”
Running back Dan Herron was scheduled to be made available to reporters but never made an appearance and was unavailable for comment on the situation. Wide receiver DeVier Posey was made available but was not allowed to answer a question about his trip to Griffin’s house. Offensive lineman Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas were never scheduled to be available for interviews.
Now as the Buckeyes get ready to kick off against Arkansas, Griffin said he feels the fan base can be proud of the players who will be in uniform regardless of what took place two years ago.
“We came out of there and they were certainly appreciative of the fact that I took some time out to talk to them and I was certainly appreciative of the fact that they manned up and said, ‘Hey, we made a mistake. We’re sorry for that mistake and we want to apologize to you and the alumni and the former players at Ohio State University,’ ” Griffin said.
“You knew that they were sorry for what they had done and I believed them, whole-heartedly. I felt that they were sincere about coming to talk to me and wanting me to say something to them.”
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