Cornelius Griffin: Built Ford tough

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Features Editor

Feb. 27, 2001 10 PM

New York Giants defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin was one of four NFL players selected by the fans as Built Ford Tough MVPs during this year’s post-season play.

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The former Pike County High School and University of Alabama gridiron great was voted the BFT MVP of the divisional playoffs during week two of the playoffs.

Football fans logged on to each week and voted for one of five Built Ford Tough MVP candidates. The BFT MVPs were featured in a two-page ad in the Feb. 12 issue of Sports Illustrated.

The Built Ford Tough MVPs aren’t glamour guys. They are "in-your-face, down-and-dirty bruise boys" who got the job done.

Griffin said he didn’t know he had received the national recognition until SI hit the stands.

Any time an athlete gets his face in SI, it’s an honor, Griffin said.

"To be one of four players voted by the fans as

MVPs during post-season play is something I can be proud of," he said. "I like to play tough. That’s the kind of player I am. When I’m on the field I want to do everything I can to help my team win, and the tougher you play, the better chance you’ve got."

Griffin capped an outstanding rookie season by starring in his first post-season game. He helped contain the elusive Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb in the Giants 20-10 NFC playoff victory in New York.

He had four tackles and 1.5 sacks of McNabb, who gained only 17 yards on five carries.

Griffin and his teammates were relentless in limiting the Eagles to just 2 of 15 third-down conversions.

Griffin was in some heady company as a BFT MVP. Hugh Douglas, one of the NFL’s top pass rushers, ripped through the Tampa Bay offense to lead the Eagles to a Wild Card win in week one.

Jesse Armstead, the veteran linebacker, led the Giants defense against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game in week three.

And, Ray Lewis, the NFL’s defensive player of the year, turned in a MVP performance in Super Bowl XXXV as the Baltimore Ravens devoured the Giants 34-7.

Griffin said the Super Bowl loss was a big disappointment for him, his teammates and their fans, but it didn’t diminish the Super Bowl experience.

"Every player should get an opportunity to play in Super Bowl during his career," Griffin said. "There is no experience to compare to it. When Alabama played Michigan in the Orange Bowl, I thought that was the ultimate football experience for me, but

that was college. The Super Bowl is the pros and there’s no comparison."

Griffin said the minute a team starts spring training camp is the minute the players start thinking "Super Bowl."

"That’s what it’s all about," he said. "That’s what you’re playing for. Only two teams make it and you want to make sure your team is one of them."

Griffin said, for many players, it takes years to get to a Super Bowl and most of them never know the thrill.

"I was blessed," he said. "I got to go in my rookie season, but I’m not satisfied with that. Because I have been, I know what it’s like and that makes me want to go back again even more. But, next time I want to know what it’s like to go – and win."

Giant quarterback Kerry Collins got most of the blame for the Giants defeat in Super Bowl XXXV, however, Griffin said no one player could be blamed.

"It was a team loss," he said. "Football is a team sport and you win or lose as a team. It takes 11 men doing their job on offense and 11 doing their job on defense and 11 doing their job on special teams. We just didn’t get the job done."

Griffin said going into the game, he believed the Giants could win.

"I knew we could and I thought we would," he said. "But, the Ravens wanted it more than we did. Somebody had to lose and I didn’t want it to be me – but I knew it might be – and it was."

When you get that close to the pinnacle of the sport and fall short, you come away even more determined.

And, Griffin said the Giants are all built Ford tough, physically and mentally, and they won’t be be satisfied until they are the best team in football.

"Second best isn’t good enough," Griffin said.