Eddie Griffin says he's been fortunate to be around good people throughout his life. Griffin, the executive director of the Jim Thorpe Association, had an impressive wrestling career.
He wrestled at U.S. Grant under the tutelage of Virgil Milliron and then at Oklahoma State under coach Myron Roderick, where he was part of two national championship teams.
Griffin then went on to a great coaching career at Ardmore and Del City, Central Oklahoma and Clemson before becoming athletic director at Oklahoma City Public Schools and then Northeastern State University.
Now, Griffin has been instrumental in the development of the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
Griffin talked to The Oklahoman about the influences in his life and what got him to where he is today.
You showed up on time and you did what you're supposed to do, and then you did more. Then you had a chance to win. That's kind of my coaching philosophy, too.
My parents are both 84 and live in the same house that I lived in when I went to Jefferson (Middle School) and U.S. Grant. That's a story in itself.
My mom and dad were both orphaned before they were 8 years old. My dad is from Tennessee and my mom is from Forth Worth, Texas, and they just happened to meet in Oklahoma City. The rest is history.
I guess I use the word character a lot for Coach Milliron and Coach Roderick. They expected you to do what you're supposed to do when you're supposed to do it and do it the right way. When that didn't happen, they let you know it. They're both coaches in that regard. They weren't afraid to keep you going in the right path.
I was just dumb enough or smart enough, what I don't know, just to hang with them.
As you talk to kids and you coach, you've got to give them what the expectations are and hold them to the expectations. Sometimes you have goals and sometimes you reach those goals, sometimes you don't, but at least your expectations are you're going to reach them.
Things I always stressed was being teammates, character, dependable and integrity as teammates. That's how you make it in life, too. Business is a lot like sports; if people trust you, they know you work hard and you're trying to do the right thing, then they're probably going to work with you. If you don't, then they're probably not.
I tell everybody how good a coach I was. He got third in the state when I coached John Smith (at Del City his freshman year), and when I left after that all he did was win state championships and national championships and world championships and Olympic championships.
I was really fortunate when I came in (at UCO) because I always tell everybody (Jimmy Rogers) kind of loaded the bus for that ‘79 team and I just got to drive it.
I found out that people are basically the same all over. In talking with the parents of these student-athletes, they all want the best thing for their kid and as we did; we wanted to have good student-athletes in.
We started the Jim Thorpe All-Star Games back in those days with Oklahoma City kids, giving those kids a chance to participate in an all-star event that was different than the All-State games because some of the Oklahoma City schools had great athletes but sometimes they weren't recognized.
The dynamics at NSU was a little different. What a lot of people don't realize is that when I went there, they weren't fully funded in scholarships in football. It took several years to get the scholarships up to where it was equitable to what the limits were.
The mascot change was a tough thing for everybody. It was one of those things that the train was already on the track; you couldn't stop it. I know we got a letter from the NCAA about the mascot change and that we hadn't done it. It was one of those things that we needed to do, or had to do, because of the Native American heritage thing.
I think the thing I learned from that is something that I probably already really knew, but didn't really think about, is the passion for schools that people have, and the passion for athletics, and the loyalty that people have to their schools and their mascots. It really runs deep and it doesn't matter if it's Northeastern State or UCO or OU or OSU, the passion runs deep and people have strong feelings.
Seeing the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame develop from what you see now; four years ago there wasn't anything here but the shell of the building. It's been amazing to see the transformation here.
There's not a lot of people that get to talk to Barry Switzer and Pat Jones and J.W. Mashburn and John Smith and all of those people just to visit with them on different issues every once and a while.
Shirley and I have been married 43 years. Actually, she's the brains of the family, and the beauty.
For her it's probably been a hard life. For me, it's been great. Every time we go somewhere everybody goes, “You married Shirley?” and I go, “Yeah,” They go, “Man, how did that happen?” I married way above my pay grade.
You've got to set goals and then you've got to be man enough to do what you need to do to reach your goals. Whatever you need to do to make yourself better, that's what you do.