John Supinie column on the Fighting Illini
By JOHN SUPINIE
GATEHOUSE NEWS SERVICE
CHAMPAIGN — Former University of Illinois running back Howard Griffith earned two Super Bowl rings with the Denver Broncos during an eight-year NFL career.
But when he takes over duties this fall as the football analyst on the Illinois Sports Radio Network, he doesn’t plan to be showing them off.
“I don’t know if I’ll be wearing those Super Bowl rings,’’ he said. “I look forward to getting a bowl ring from Illinois in the near future.’’
Griffith found his way into the end zone during his Illinois career, setting an NCAA record of eight touchdowns against Southern Illinois in 1990. Now Griffith will find his way to the radio booth, the school announced Wednesday.
He fills the vacancy created following the retirement of long-time radio analyst Jim Grabowski, another ex-Illini running back. Former U of I quarterbacks Jack Trudeau and Kurt Kittner plus former tight end Matt Cushing also were considered for the opening.
“I’m really excited about getting back involved with Illinois football,’’ Griffith said. “Obviously, Illinois football is near and dear to my heart. I like the direction the program is headed. I’m happy I can be part of it.’’
Griffith will join play-by-play announcer Brian Barnhart when the Illini open the season Sept. 1 against Missouri in St. Louis.
“He gave so much to this program as a player, and I’m thrilled he wants to continue to be a part of the family,’’ Illinois coach Ron Zook said. “Howard has played this game at the highest level and will add his great knowledge to the broadcast.’’
Besides his experience on the field, Griffith also has been in the television booth, working two NFL games for FOX Sports. Griffith also worked a weekly Broncos TV show and an Arena Football League broadcast for FSN. He now resides in downtown Chicago.
Griffith lettered at Illinois from 1987 to 1990. He helped the Illini earn a share of the Big Ten title in 1990 and 10 wins in 1989. He holds school records for touchdowns in a game, season (15) and career (33). He ranks seventh in school history with 2,485 yards rushing. Griffith gained 1,115 yards rushing as a senior to earn second-team All-Big Ten.
Griffith was the Broncos starting fullback in 1997 and 1998, when Denver won back-to-back Super Bowls. He spent four years with the Broncos and two years apiece with the Los Angeles Rams and Carolina Panthers.
“We were very lucky to have one of our all-time greats in Jim Grabowski behind the microphone for almost 30 years, and now we follow up with another of the Illini’s all-time great players in Howard Griffith,’’ athletic director Ron Guenther said. “His accomplishments here at Illinois and in his eight-year NFL career speak for themselves.
“He has some terrific broadcast experience following his playing career in Denver, and we’re very confident he’ll be a great spokesperson and analyst on our football radio network.’’
John Supinie can be reached at (217) 377-1977 and Johnsupinie@aol.com.