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His return from an ACL tear has his sights set on another bowl in 2011.
Robert Griffin III does everything fast.
Sure, there’s the obvious, like earning track All-America honors and winning a Big 12 championship in the 400-meter hurdles, or rushing for 843 yards and 13 touchdowns as a true freshman. There have been few, if any, faster players at the quarterback position on the college level.
But it hardly stops there. Think Doogie Howser, M.D., with LeBron James and maybe a little John F. Kennedy mixed in for good measure.
Griffin graduated from high school a semester early, earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in December at the age of 20 and has already broken 14 career records with the Bears — despite the fact that he’s just now entering his redshirt junior season.
“I didn’t want to be here five years and get one degree, maybe two,” says Griffin, who’s working on a master’s in communications with a plan down the road to go to law school. “A lot of guys don’t like school, and some of them do it just because it will get them where they want to be for athletics. But I know the life expectancy of a pro athlete is not very long, no matter what sport you’re in. So you have to be able to do something else after it’s all said and done.”
Depending on how the whole NFL thing works out for him, Griffin has the kind of dynamic personality and Hollywood good looks that would make him an absolute beast in the political arena. The way he’s attacked everything else, he would probably end up challenging the age requirement to be elected president (35).
Why wait when you can have it now?
That’s what made the knee injury he suffered two years ago so agonizing. The 6'2", 220-pound ball of energy was sidelined just two-and- a-half games into the 2009 season with a torn ACL in his right knee and was forced to wait. For Griffin, there are few worse four-letter words in the English language than “wait.”
“We’re a family, and it’s like you can’t get in the house for a while,” Baylor coach Art Briles says of the long rehabilitation process. “For guys that have always been involved and always been at the forefront, it’s devastating — not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.”
Taking the same aggressive approach that he does in life, sports and education, Griffin went to rehab three times per day for the first four months and came back “bigger, stronger and better,” Briles says.
There were certainly those who doubted if Griffin would ever regain his electrifying speed. He quickly proved them all wrong.
Ask 10 different people, and you’ll probably get 10 different answers on the moment when they knew Griffin was “back.” There was the 30-yard TD run against Sam Houston State in the 2010 season-opener; an amazing play in a 55–7 win over Kansas, when he retrieved a shotgun snap 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, scrambled to his left and somehow threw back across the field for an 11-yard TD pass toTerrance Williams; or his 137-yard rushing effort in a 31–25 victory at Colorado.
But in the eyes of Griffin, there was no single moment during a breakout 7–6 season that ended with the Bears’ first bowl game in 16 years.
“You have to always believe,” says Griffin, who passed for a school-record 3,501 yards and 22 touchdowns while adding 635 yards and eight TDs on the ground. “So there is no ‘I’m back.’ I’m already here. I’m just doing what I normally do, and I’m going to be better at it. But if you ask (senior receiver Kendall Wright), Mr. Outspoken, he thought it was the Colorado game. That’s the first game I went over 100 yards rushing. But I don’t think that was my coming out.”
In a sense, the whole 2010 season was a coming-out party for Griffin and the Bears. Winning seven of its first nine games, Baylor was ranked 22nd in the nation and atop the Big 12 South standings at 4–1 after the program’s first win at Texas in 19 years.
But like the rest of the team, Griffin struggled down the stretch in consecutive losses to the nationally ranked trio of Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, and a frustrating 38–14 meltdown in the Texas Bowl against Illinois.
“We went 7–6, so we have to top what we did (on offense) last year so that we can win 11, 12 games,” Griffin says. “That’s the goal. We know we have to be dominant as an offense. Every time we get the ball, we need to score. And I don’t think the guys look at that as a lot of pressure, but just something we expect with all the talent we have on offense.”
In two seasons as the starter at Copperas Cove High School, Griffin led the Bulldawgs to a 25–4 record and back-to-back state championship game appearances while throwing for 3,357 yards and 41 touchdowns with just nine interceptions.
But since he was a potential Olympic hopeful in the hurdles, he was seen more as a running quarterback in the mold of a young Michael Vick.
Briles was thinking the same thing until he saw Griffin at a University of Houston football camp in the summer before his senior season.
“We knew he could run,” says Briles, who got Griffin to switch his commitment from UH to Baylor when he took the job in December 2007. “I had some friends of mine that coach in high school that had seen him run a couple of times, and they said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to look at this guy.’ Then I found out he played quarterback, which intrigued me even more. And then when he came to our camp in Houston and I saw him throw, I thought, ‘Wow, we’ve got to hide this guy.’ I knew that if he got out there, he would be a hard one to hold on to.”
That could be a problem facing Briles again after this season. With a degree in hand and engaged to be married, Griffin could take his talents to the NFL next year rather than wait around for a fifth year. There’s that ugly word again — wait.
“I just want to be the best I can possibly be before I leave,” Griffin says. “I know Coach Briles is saying I’ll definitely be here for two more years. He tells me that all the time. And honestly, I have no problem with that. It’s just whatever God has for me in the future. If He tells me to stay for another year, and I’m sure Baylor fans would be happy about that, then I’ll stay for another year.”