Robert Griffin III, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor and No. 2 pick overall in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable faces in sports. Recently RG3 sat down with Baylor Bear Insider editor Jerry Hill for Athlon Sports Monthly and provided some insight about his well-decorated past and a future with endless potential.
Athlon Sports: Winning the Heisman would obviously be special at any school. But was it even more gratifying to do it at a school like Baylor that did not enjoy much success in football in the 15 years before you arrived?
RG3: Winning the Heisman at Baylor University, for Baylor University, Baylor Nation and Baylor alums everywhere, made it special. Being able to lift a community, Waco, Copperas Cove, and surrounding areas, is what made the accomplishment gratifying.
When you were sitting there next to Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck at the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York, how confident were you that you were going to win? And what was that moment like when you heard your name called?
I was confident, but I was more nervous and anxious, because you never know what the voters look at when they place their ballots. At Baylor University, we knew we were the most exciting team in college football. We had big-time players making big-time plays, and we had our collection of “Heisman Moments.” At that time, you are rendered powerless until they utter . . . “The winner of the 2011 Heisman Memorial Trophy is . . . Robert Griffin III, RG3.” Now, you just have to remember the speech.
Other than winning the Heisman, was there one particular “best memory” from your days at Baylor?
Best memories, you mean? On the field, I remember two blocks I threw to help my teammates score touchdowns. The first one was my freshman year against Iowa State, where I pancaked a guy, helping Kendal Wright score. The other was in the 2011 Alamo Bowl, when I helped Jarred Salubi score after I threw a block that helped him escape. I also remember taking three knees to win games — one ended a 16-year bowl drought; one marked our first victory against Oklahoma and a (former) Heisman winner; and one marked us as Alamo Bowl champions with 10 wins. They said we couldn’t do it . . . and we still did it.
What’s one thing that few people would know about Robert Griffin III?
I don’t have dreads. My hair is braided off the scalp. And I doubt that many people know that I dunked in the eighth grade when I was 5-6, just as tall as you, Jerry (laughing).
You obviously attracted a lot of widespread attention for the different socks you wear. How did that start, and do you plan on rolling out some new ones in the NFL?
I started wearing the socks my sophomore year in high school, just as a sign that I was comfortable in my own skin and who I was. Contrary to popular belief, I never wore the socks on the field. But I do plan to continue wearing them off the field and might even have my own designs.
When you suffered a torn ACL during your sophomore season in 2009, were there days when you were going through rehab for the knee injury that you just wanted to give up? How did you fight through that?
I never faced a time when I wanted to quit. I did have a decision to make early on in my rehab, though. I could go through the motions and come back a shade of myself or just the same guy. Or I could push myself to the limit, just as I had been trained to do my whole life, and come back a better player than anyone had ever seen. I pushed and pushed and pushed, because my family, my future family, my friends and my teammates needed me to. I wasn’t going to let them down.
With several of the major schools recruiting you to play something other than quarterback, did that motivate you even more to prove them wrong?
You mean Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma? It’s not really as many as people think, but it wasn’t extra motivation. Do I remember who the three teams were? Yes. But you can’t do things to prove others wrong. All you can do is perform, so that they regret their decisions.
Because of the option offense you ran at Copperas Cove (Texas), most people viewed you as more of a runner than a passer coming out of high school. Was there anything specific you did to improve your throwing ability?
First, I was given the option to throw. We were a pro-style running team in high school, and we were great at it. Because of my speed, I have always faced the criticism that I can’t throw. But I just pushed forward and performed. The stats on the books at Baylor say enough.
What was the point when you first realized that you had the talent to be a top-5 pick in the NFL Draft?
The day coach Art Briles named me the starter at Baylor. I went through a lot in the process. But if you can’t see what you can become, you won’t put in the work to go and capture it.
You obviously agonized over the decision to leave school early for the NFL Draft. How difficult was it for you to forego your senior year at Baylor?
It was the hardest decision thus far in my life. I played on one good knee for a whole half (against Northwestern State in 2009) — after tearing my ACL on the first drive — for my teammates, coaches and Baylor Nation. It wasn’t about money or fame. I truly love my Baylor University, and that is what made it difficult. I cried when I told my teammates, because they truly are my brothers for life. It means something to me to wear the BU on my helmet and across my chest. It means even more to wear it with the guys that I did.
Seeing what Cam Newton was able to do last year, does that give you confidence that you can make a similar impact this year as a rookie starter with the Washington Redskins?
I plan to come in and do all the little things — study, work hard, earn respect and get better. If you come in to make an impact, you won’t make one. You have to focus on the small things so that all the big things can fall into place.
Washington gave up a lot of picks to move up and take you with the No. 2 pick overall in the Draft. Does that put extra pressure on you?
I don’t look at it as pressure. If anything, it makes me want to go out and get to work sooner. They believe in me. That’s why they gave up so many picks for me. There have been a lot of great quarterbacks that have had terrible rookie years. I don’t want to be that guy. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m not that guy. Peyton Manning didn’t have a great year as a rookie, and now he’s considered one of the best of all-time. You’ve just got to work through the bumps and try to succeed in whatever ways you can.