Robert Griffin is a one-of-a-kind athlete, and the Baylor Bears are doing everything they can to spread the word. Among the pamphlets and guides made available to the press at the Big 12 Media Days sat a stack of notepads with Griffin’s face emblazoned on the front. On the reverse side, quotes from the nation’s top college coaches and leading analysts praised Griffin’s ability.
“Absolutely amazing,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown.
“Extremely gifted,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik wrote.
And the catchiest of them all — “The Baylor Blur,” from the Winston-Salem Journal.
He’s even got his own website, created by the Bears athletic program. The site, BU-RG3.com, is still under construction, but all signs point to the site being dedicated to his Heisman campaign.
The praise is justified. Griffin holds the Big 12 career record for lowest interception percentage, at 1.4 percent. He also helped Baylor go to their first bowl game since 1994, and he’s not stopping there. Early Heisman watches have Griffin among the candidates for the 2011 season. However, Griffin isn’t buying into the talk just yet.
“I’ve always said that the Heisman is a team award,” Griffin said. “If the team is doing well and everyone is playing together, that’s when you can start talking about it.”
Humbling words coming from a player that many around the league have accused of “trash-talking” on the field. Bears head coach Art Briles sees Griffin’s behavior on the field in a different light.
“Robert is a confident athlete with reality to back up what he’s saying on the field,” Briles said.
If anyone knows Griffin as a player, it’s Briles. While the head coach at Houston in 2007, Briles recruited Griffin to come play for the Cougars. Griffin initially committed to Houston, but after Briles landed the head coaching job at Baylor, Griffin made the switch as well.
From that point on, the face of Baylor football changed. Griffin immediately became the centerpiece of the entire Baylor athletic program. He was the crowning achievement for a school that has had trouble bringing in top talent from around the state. In came the 6-foot-3-inch, 215 pound Griffin, and he brought more than speed and a high football IQ to the program. The signing of Griffin opened the door for other blue-chip players to come to Waco as well.
Griffin’s first year with the Bears was more than the team could have asked for. He started 11 of 12 games, recorded 13 of 23 passes for 241 yards in an upset win over Texas A&M and also won the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award. His quick start with the team couldn’t stop the Bears from going 4-8 in 2008, and three games into the 2009 season, things came to a crashing halt when Griffin tore his ACL. He sat out the remainder of the season and was granted a medical redshirt since he had not played for more than 30 percent of the season. Griffin was able to make it back on the field in 2010 but even Briles admits he wasn’t at full strength then.
“We saw a little hesitation last year,” Briles said.
The arrival of Griffin has revived a fledgling football program in Baylor, and in 2010 he and the Bears made a full recovery.
Their appearance in the Texas Bowl served as a reminder that one player can indeed turn an entire program around. The Bears lost to Illinois 38-14, however, it is that loss that served as fuel for offseason preparation. Griffin made it clear that simply making it to a bowl game isn’t going to cut it this season.
“We’re not just content with sitting at the table — we want dessert,” Griffin said.