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Where are your former Browns now? LB Anthony Griggs

25 questions with one of Marty Schottenheimer’s guys

Former Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Anthony Griggs has had his share of weird and unusual circumstances leading up to becoming an NFL athlete.

During his senior year of high school, there was a teacher’s strike and his football season was canceled prematurely. Under scholarship at Villanova University, his senior year was completely scrubbed when the school dropped football altogether. And as he was trying to win a job during his rookie season in the NFL, the players went on strike.

Talk about trials and tribulations.

Yet, Griggs did find some success along this twisted trail. He went to the same high school as his wife Bethann but never dated her. Later in life when he was traded to the Browns he reconnected with her and now the couple have been married for 25 years. That is one happy ending.

You may say that Griggs’ entire life has been in the right position. And with all those football trials and tribulations, a solution was found with each. Although each was very odd to happen to one humble man, he learned perseverance and patience, and that things happen the way they’re supposed to and not necessarily how you planned it all out. Or even if it was planned at all. Things just - happen.

Griggs played in the NFL for seven years. He was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round of the 1982 draft. Philly had some decent guys on defense at the time, but the franchise was mostly a bottom-feeder team. In 1986, he was traded to Cleveland who had a stellar defense coached by a defensive guru named Marty Schottenheimer. With the Browns, Griggs learned about a winning culture and that going to the playoffs wasn’t a goal, it was an annual trek. And an expectation. While with Philly, those types of things weren’t part of their culture, but in Cleveland, you learned that defense was king and that the playoffs were a vehicle you rode each year.

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons
Clay Matthews #57
Photo by Gin Ellis/Getty Images

The Browns not only wanted Griggs but made a trade for him. And soon enough he had won one of the starting linebacker positions on a group that was stacked with talent such as Chip Banks, Tom Cousineau, Eddie Johnson, Clay Matthews, and former USFL star Mike Johnson.

Because of Griggs, the franchise ended up trying to trade Cousineau, a former All-American at Ohio State. At the time, Schottenheimer released the talented linebacker and stated:

“I have no doubt Tom will play in the NFL and probably start. ‘We just had too many quality players at the position.’’

Schottenheimer never had a losing season while being the head coach of the Browns. Schotts loved several things while with Cleveland: the running game, defense, and his players.

Coming out of his shortened high school season in football, Griggs had interest from Rutgers, Villanova, Penn State, Duke, and Kentucky. He chose Villanova.

In one of his off-seasons while with the Eagles, he learned he had one year of track eligibility left and threw the javelin for Villanova while he finished his degree. He finished third in the conference finals.

After his playing career, he became the Strength and Conditioning coach for the Atlanta Falcons before landing a job as the Director of Player Development and Strength Coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the next 13 years.

While employed with the Steelers, Griggs was responsible for administering the NFL’s Player programs, which included organizing continued education, career development, financial/business management seminars, and family assistance programs. Through a comprehensive and thorough weight training and conditioning program, Griggs not only helped players get stronger physically but mentally and emotionally as well.

For an older guy now 63 years old, he is in really great shape. He goes to the Cleveland Clinic and gets an extensive three-day evaluation on him to find out about his brain, back, muscles, neurological, and psychological condition. Griggs still lives in Pittsburgh and has four children: Loren, Lexi, Aaryn, and Alex. He is the President of AG Squared Networks and the owner/founder of AG360, which assists businesses, individuals, teams, and organizations with optimal growth and development. Griggs is also a motivational speaker, author, Certified Mental Performance coach, and a Christian.

Griggs earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Villanova and later earned his master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Geneva College. He enjoys martial arts, working with kids, reading and has in the works a series of eBooks coming up on Kindle. Growing up he loved fellow New Jersey native Franco Harris of the Steelers and as he focused on being a linebacker, Jack Lambert became his guy to follow.

Dawgs By Nature caught up with the former Browns linebacker to find out how Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil had a difficult time getting to Griggs, what exactly is “burst football”, and why he told Nick Saban regarding his scholarship offer “I’ll let you know.”

DBN: At John F. Kennedy High School, you only played five games in your senior year because of a strike. What was the strike about?

Griggs: It wasn’t a player’s strike like in the NFL, but a teacher’s strike. We had already had football camp and it was early in the season and were told there was a strike. I didn’t know anything about a strike. Then it was miss a game. Then miss another game. Before long it was a cancellation of the season. They announced that. That was a pain in the stomach for me. I didn’t really have a plan but had some schools interested in me. I wasn’t a guy who wanted to take visits, so I just kept going to school.

John F. Kennedy High School

DBN: Did you play any other sports while in high school?

Griggs: A lot of guys I knew played basketball but that wasn’t for me. I participated in track. I did the high jump, shot put, and javelin. I tried the hurdles but quit that idea pretty quick. I came within a half inch of the school record in both the shot put and high jump. I had the best record in the javelin in the state at that time.


DBN: Ainsworth Sports made a list of the All-Time best football players from the State of New Jersey and ranked you. We are talking about guys like Franco Harris, Drew Pearson, Joe Theismann, Rosey Grier, Floyd Little, Jack Tatum, Victor Cruz, and Greg Olsen. That’s quite a database. Your thoughts?

Griggs: I feel very fortunate to be on that list. I felt I was just a guy who had an opportunity to do something. There are some very big names on that list. Tatum was ferocious. They saw a guy who put the work in and was coachable. I am just a guy who just gave it a shot. New Jersey has had a lot of guys in all sports make it big. I am shocked and honored at the same time.

DBN: You played college football at Villanova and then transferred to Ohio State. Why did Villanova get rid of the football program going into your senior year?

Griggs: Another financial deal. We had just finished spring ball and one of the players came to my room at night and said they were getting rid of football. I said yeah, sure because I didn’t believe him. My position coach told me to come to the field house in the morning and the President of the university said they were getting rid of football. Other players were saying they couldn’t believe they got rid of it, and I was like, I have been involved in a strike – it happens. Keep moving. But the university was willing to let us finish out our degrees if we stayed. At the announcement, one of my coaches told me there was a guy from Ohio State who wanted to talk about me going there. I told him, going there? I was going here. I had one year left. That coach was Nick Saban who was on the staff of Ohio State. He said that they would like to have me out and play out my last year of eligibility. I thought, “You have a team already. You don’t need Anthony Griggs.” I told him I would consider and thank you for coming out. My teammates are like Ohio State, you have to take that. I told them I was good where I was at. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a new student again. After a week, I accepted.

DBN: You showed up for Ohio State’s Pro Day, but were told the event was only for their All-American players. Another coach asked you to run anyways since you showed up, and you did run. Did those scouts in attendance notice you?

Griggs: All the seniors had cars except me. After I ran, some of the scouts came over and actually asked who I was and if I had film on me. One of them was from the Eagles. I ran the 40 and did some linebacker drills. Then they asked me to do some other tests. One of the scouts told me if they wanted to get in touch with me they needed my agent’s name and contact info. I said, agent? What? I didn’t have an agent. I told them to just reach the school and gave them my dorm room and that telephone number. We didn’t have cell phones then. When you left you just said bye.

DBN: There is an amusing story of you being drafted in the fourth round. Please share.

Griggs: My roommate wasn’t a football player, he was an entomologist. He had posters of insects on his side of the room. I was out to class, and when I got back my roommate said that some guy named Dremmel called and said he was going to call you back about drafting you. Something about Eagles. I said, what? I am from the Philadelphia area so the Eagles are in my backyard. He called back, and said, “This is Dick Vermeil, how do you feel about being drafted in the fourth round? Just stick around your phone. We’re going to draft you in a few minutes. How do you feel about that?” I said, what? I thought it was a prank. I didn’t think it was like - real. So Vermeil said he would call back in a few minutes and let me know how it went. He called back and said, “Congratulations Anthony you are a Philadelphia Eagle. I will have my secretary call you to get you in here.” So, now I am just playing along. I said, “That’s great. Fantastic.” So a woman named Sally calls later and tells me that they are going to get me along with the other draft choices in tomorrow, and what flight time can they get for me? I told her my last class was at 2:00. I am still not getting this for what it really is. She gave me a confirmation number for a 5:00 flight. Now I am like, wait, what, huh? I asked if she was serious, and she said yes. They needed me to catch that flight to get me in. I called my mom and told her I was coming home tomorrow. She thought I was in trouble. I told her I think I got drafted by the Eagles. She said, what?

St. Louis Cardinals v Philadelpnia Eagles Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

DBN: What was your first NFL training camp like?

Griggs: It wasn’t on campus anymore, this is the real deal. George Hill was my position coach and he had come from Ohio State so we had something mutual. But that was all we had. He worked me up good. And it’s a lot of information they give you. They know you’re going to get it, but while you are messing up and not getting it, the coaches are going to earn their paycheck. You learn pretty fast that if you don’t get what they are coaching you, you aren’t going to be around. Meetings were three hours, and then later we had another meeting. My name was “hey linebacker.” Hey Linebacker do this. Hey Linebacker the meeting is at six. I was a grinder and knew how to work hard, so I was determined to show them how I can work. I was always running and in the weight room.

DBN: Your rookie season just so happened to begin with a 57-day player strike. If you were a veteran that’s one thing, but being a rookie who is trying desperately to make an impression and make the final roster, how difficult was that for you?

Griggs: Another strike. I didn’t understand what the strike was, or why. I just know our player rep said the players were going on strike trying to get this and that. During the strike I got a job being a substitute teacher at my old high school. I did that the entire strike. Some of my students were in the eighth grade when I graduated so that was strange. I wasn’t much older than them and now here I am teaching their class. Some asked why I wasn’t playing for the Eagles anymore and had to tell them about the strike.

DBN: As a rookie, you played mostly on special teams. Is that more viewed as a proving ground that you deserve a roster spot?

Griggs: We had a lot of people in camp. Getting to play on special teams was a chance to really show yourself. We took pride in it and so did the Eagles. We had Frank Gantz as our special teams coach. His background was as an aviator test pilot. So, we were in like Special Forces to him. He had coordinated everybody’s part. And if you did something wrong, you just messed up the mission. He didn’t settle. And it wasn’t just rookies and second-year guys. There were some veterans on those teams. He wanted tenacity. We were coming in to converge. We were already giving up our bodies, but he wanted our souls.

St. Louis Cardinals v Philadelpnia Eagles Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

DBN: Your second season you started at outside linebacker. In your very first game as the starter you intercepted Joe Montana. Did you keep that ball, and is it true you gave Montana a concussion?

Griggs: There was a lot more understanding of what was expected beginning my second year. I don’t remember keeping that ball. But at the time, I didn’t think of it as catching a pass from Joe Montana. I had stopped a drive.

Somebody had told me that I gave Montana a concussion. Apparently, he tried to make the tackle and my knee hit him in the head.

DBN: You were the Eagles 1985 “Man of the Year” for your off-field community involvement. How did you find out about this prestigious award, and who was the first person you told?

Griggs: The Eagles PR guy had come to me one day and said they were going to nominate me for the award. I really didn’t know too much about it. It was at the end of the year. I am from Philadelphia, so yeh, I did a lot. I knew what needed to be done because I was from there. I would do things spur of the moment. I got the award during a game. I still have it. It’s a wooden laser carved out picture of my face. I told my mom first. My mom and dad took great pride in tailgating and heavy into Bar-B-Q.

DBN: After four seasons in Philly, how did you end up with the Browns?

Griggs: I have stories - most of them involve a strike. I was about to enter my fifth season in 1986, and on draft day I was speaking at a school. Afterwards, I was eating at a sandwich shop that had a TV. I was eating, and the guys on the TV were discussing the recap of the draft. And one of them said, “What do you think about that trade of Anthony Griggs to Cleveland?” Anthony Griggs to what? They said Cleveland was needing linebackers and traded me for a draft pick. They had Tom Cousineau who had been an All-American linebacker at Ohio State. I was a fan of his.

Cleveland Browns vs New York Jets, 1987 AFC Divisional Playoffs Set Number: X34203 TK1 R9 F13

DBN: You came to the Browns in the 1986 season which went 12-4-0. What was the Browns like and Marty Schottenheimer as a coach?

Griggs: I met Cousineau. He was all business and I’m all business and we just go at it in practices. We didn’t have any adversary, but we were battling. He was a workout guy like me and I respected that. I loved Marty. I came from the Eagles and we had never been to the playoffs the entire time I was there. And now the Browns, they go every year. I am loving this. And if we win just one more game we get a bye in the playoffs? What? And then if we win two games we are in the Super Bowl. Huh? So it was night and day in the sense that I was used to playing in the NFL. One game we had beat the Steelers in their stadium, and we were getting home at like two in the morning. The airport was packed with fans. Packed and carrying signs. It was unbelievable.

Cleveland Browns vs Denver Broncos, 1987 AFC Championship
LB Chip Banks high-fives LB Anthony Griggs (right)
Set Number: X34239 TK2 R7 F8

DBN: You beat out Cousineau and started alongside Clay Matthews, Eddie Johnson, and Chip Banks. That was a monster linebacker corps. What is the advantage of a defense playing the 3-4 versus the 4-3?

Griggs: When you have linebackers like that you have to get them on the field. That is exactly what the 3-4 did. That put more athletes who can rush the passer and cover backs and stop the run. Eddie Johnson was a smasher. And me seeing that, I had to raise my game up and meet their standard. We had this mentality that we were going to win. It was a great time with being with the Browns. And the offense had weapons.

DBN: Those 1986 and 1987 Browns teams were really good but lost in the AFC Championship Game both years to the Denver Broncos. Do you still hate John Elway?

Griggs: I knew that was coming. Man, just more seconds on the clock, and a little less in another game, and this conversation is different. This guy is a different guy. I don’t hate him and when I see him I am thinking he is unbelievable. People I know will give me their own little scenario about Elway in those games. I just know winning and losing in sports is part of it. One game was hard losing, and a second one that was just as close is even more difficult.

DBN: While playing for the Browns, where were some of the places you would eat or grab a brew after practices or games?

Griggs: I like Italian food so I would usually find a place like Bruno’s Ristorante on 41st Street. I also liked Hot Sauce Williams, a Bar-B-Q place. I ate at Bob Evans once a week for their biscuits and gravy. When I first got to Cleveland I lived in the Red Roof Inn for the first month. Then I rented an apartment in Lakeview before moving to Bay Village which were condos.

DBN: Schottenheimer had stepped down as the head coach of the Browns and now was the head coach with the Kansas City Chiefs. How did you end up in KC?

Griggs: My last year in Cleveland they brought in another linebacker Mike Junkin who was taken high in the first round. The team had traded Chip Banks to San Diego. They gave Junkin every chance to start but he got hurt. The Browns had released me and brought me back with Mike was hurt. But later they released me again and Marty had left. He called me to come and play for him in Kansas City. He had brought over Bill Cowher to run the same defense they had in Cleveland. Bill and I were linebackers while with Philadelphia. I knew when Marty left Cleveland that he would be hired somewhere else pretty quickly and that the success he had built in Cleveland he would build in Kansas City. Marty was about the real desire to play, and what motivated you to perform. He did not teach that this job is just another ho-hum position. No. This is all you have right now, this is what he was asking from you as a player. When I got to KC, it was just like I was back in Cleveland. I already knew most of the coaches. I was playing outside linebacker in training camp and wore #58 which was a good number for me. Their Number 1 draft pick wasn’t in camp yet but signed before the first game. They released me and gave Derrick Thomas my #58 jersey. He lived up to it.

NFL: USA TODAY Sports-Archive
Anthony Griggs (53)
RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

DBN: You played at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium which was built for the Cleveland Indians. Tell us something we wouldn’t know about Muni.

Griggs: In the home team locker room there were two tiers. One upstairs and one downstairs. Downstairs there is carpeting and everyone has their own locker. They send the rookies and special teamers upstairs. There is a piece of tape on the wall with my name on it with a nail stuck in the wall. It was so antiquated like a trip back in time. You had to go downstairs to take a shower and then hope you had hot water. Then we would play at other stadiums and the visitor’s locker rooms were plush. Muni was also a baseball stadium, so the walk from the locker room was longer to get to the football field than if it was baseball season. We would come out of the Indians home dugout. But the crowd gave you a nostalgia feeling and as a player you loved it. You couldn’t really recognize anyone sitting in the stands especially behind where home plate would be because of the distance. I knew where my mom was sitting but I couldn’t lock in to where exactly she was. And the fanaticalness of the Dawg Pound. That was crazy. They were right up on the players at the back of that end zone. It was unbelievable.

DBN: After you hung up your cleats and a short stint with Atlanta, you landed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as their Player Development Director. What were your job duties?

Griggs: It was a new program called Player Development. It was helping players with life skills, helping them finish their degrees or getting them entered into internships that they may be interested in. Also personal aspect like getting around town and doing financial seminars. We had a professional who taught finance. Second year I won Player Development Director of the league. I was the one after the draft that brought all the newly-drafted players to this rookie symposium. I was the guy who had to connect with the players. I was privy to some of the stuff that would be said at the Combine and gave notes after they interviewed players.

DBN: You formed a company called AG360 Training. What is the focus of this company?

Griggs: It is a way for an athlete to get a game plan for their athletic career. Physical training, emotional training, to help them become a high-performing athlete. You have to know some things in order to train for certain things not while the games are happening, but prior to that. Visualization, goal-setting, overcoming anxiety, relieving stress – all things that happen before the game. But you have to practice it. Then after the game, things that are asked of you and what people say. Life skills, but not just of athletes like time management, stress management, and skills to help someone become a better person or student. With AG360 I have been working with kids that help give them tools. I’ve had a good response with this.


DBN: Everyone knows that the athletic portion is essential. How equally important is the mental aspect?

Griggs: It may be more so important. Your state of mind is everything – wanting to learn, overcoming obstacles, and of gaining success. You have to stay grounded when you gain success and stay humble. You can’t control certain things and have to understand how the brain works, what the triggers are. When you do get depressed or get down, what do you do? What do you want? What do you desire? And how do you go about getting it?

DBN: Your company offers physical coaching, mental coaching, emotional coaching, plus a life skills program. Is this truly an athletic game plan for any athlete?

Griggs: I think sports show kids at a young age something that they like. They may like computers, cooking, taking things apart, playing a musical instrument, or something like sewing. Now we put them into a sport that allows them to be a part of it without their parents. They then learn to be on time and how to practice. And as they go along, they get better at it and are taught how to overcome things in life. You learn how to deal with other people and other situations, adversary, failure, and how to lose. When do you know when you win? How does that correlate to if they work at a place or go into business? You learn to define all this.

DBN: You have a great idea for a new wrinkle in the NFL called “burst football.” Explain this.

Griggs: It is just an idea to be a component of the NFL. It allows each team to have one “burst” player. That is somebody who has played the game and are age 50 or older. And they have one last burst in them. That player gets a burst exemption on the roster. But each team has to use that player for one play in the game. Every game whether that is on offense, defense or special teams. This player doesn’t even go to practices. And after his one play, the burst player can hit the showers, get changed, and go. Before each game he signs a waiver that he has a will, a designated next of kin, and signed off on all medical situations. Teams would use him when his expertise can help them and he can be played as a 12th man on the field. Maybe the burst player would wear Number 00 or maybe wear a big red cross on his jersey.

DBN: Other than money, how has the NFL changed since you played?

Griggs: The players have gotten bigger and faster. They move weight quicker, which means just on physics there is a lot of force that is being generated out there. Look at some of the rule changes that have happened. The quarterback rules are lengthy now. You can’t land on a quarterback. You can’t knock him down, you have to bring him down now without any malicious intent. Or hit his head whether intentional or not. Along the offensive line you can’t high/low people anymore. No more 10-yard start on the kickoff. Tackling is very different. We were taught how to spear with the helmet. And no helmet-to-helmet because you were trying to take heads off. There was no ideal tackle – you just tried to level the guy. The medical aspect of it has changed because we didn’t discuss the neck compression or head blows. Player’s information on injuries has changed now. And information about their body has changed like what they put into it and what they need to do to keep stuff out of it. And today, a player can be his own brand.

DBN: What is your fondest moment of being a Cleveland Brown?

Griggs: When I remember players of when we played. The joy we had in the locker room. All of the hard work you put into it, but we did it as a team. We were trying to win games and busting ourselves trying to get those wins. We all wore the same uniform and we all represented Cleveland. I experienced a lot of good things while in Cleveland even when Art Modell was there. One time we had the President of the United States at one of our practices with Ronald Reagan. He spoke which was a “wow” moment. I met a lot of people who were die, die-hard Browns’ fans. And it wasn’t because we won everything, it was because they were born and raised here and that team was a part of them.