By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Cynically, Robert Griffin III could have passed if off as just another recruiting promise when Baylor football coach Art Briles told him that he would be a Heisman Trophy finalist "in two to three years."
Now that the prophecy has actually come true, Griffin III calls it "unbelievably believable." The junior quarterback is a finalist for the Davey O'Brien Award that will be announced during ESPN's The Home Depot College Football Awards show Thursday night in Orlando, Fla., and is then headed to New York as one of five finalists for the Heisman Trophy presented to the best college football player in the nation.
"When you're in the moment, it shocks you and you're like, 'I can't believe this is happening,''' he said. "But when you work for something and you don't just wait for it to come around to you, a lot of times it can go your way."
Instead of writing it off as another empty recruiting promise from an eager coach, RG3 said he "totally bought in."
"I didn't look at it like most of the media would have at that time that nothing good ever happens at Baylor University," said Griffin III, who has passed for a school-record 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns in leading the 12th-ranked Bears to a 9-3 record and a Valero Alamo Bowl matchup against Washington (7-5). "But we're doing a lot of good right now. (Briles) specifically told me that with my skill set at the quarterback position, I would change the way people look at quarterback and have an opportunity to do big things."
Interviewed on the field after last Saturday's 48-24 win over Texas, when he threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns, Griffin III said, "I could be wrong, but I think Baylor won its first Heisman tonight. . . . We felt like if we came out and got a victory, then we should win the Heisman."
Asked about the comment during a teleconference call on Tuesday, he said, "Some people forget the fact that I didn't say I won the Heisman, that I'm the greatest guy ever. I was just saying to the world that they said we needed to beat Texas, and we beat them decisively. They said we needed to put up points against a good defense, and we put up 48. So taking all that into account, based on what was said, Baylor should have won its first Heisman. And it was more directed at Baylor Nation than anybody, because I know they're really excited about what we're doing and they came out and supported us."
Instead of getting caught up with all the Heisman hype, Griffin III said "you have to stay grounded."
"Right now, Baylor is pretty hot," he said. "It's exciting, but at the same time you realize that you still have a bowl game to get ready for. And it's not always about you. It's about the team and the school you're representing."
"The thing about Robert is that this isn't the first time he's been in the limelight or the spotlight," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "Ever since he began athletics in the 7th grade, he's been a guy that when he walks on the track, everyone looks at him. When he walks on the football field, everybody looks at him. so this is nothing new that's all of a sudden crept up on him, and now he's wondering how to handle it. He's been handling it all of his life, and he handled it superbly."
During his time at Baylor, RG3 has been key to one of the most impressive turnarounds in college football. Winless in conference play the year before he arrived, the Bears are 16-9 over the last two seasons and making back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1991-92.
"Whenever you can raise something up and see it flourish, it's going to make you proud," he said. "In five to 10 years, we'll be able to look back at this and see that Baylor still doing a great job in athletics, especially in football, and really be proud of what we were able to do."
He can also revel in an athletic program that features a women's basketball team that's ranked No. 1 in the country and a men's basketball team that has climbed to an all-time high of No. 6 in the latest Associated Press poll.
"That's really unheard of. You never see anything like that," he said. "We're building ourselves into a powerhouse. Our fans are excited and people are excited about what we're doing here at Baylor. It's going to bring more people to us and give us an opportunity to really stretch this out for years to come."
Asked about his attire for Saturday's Heisman Trophy presentation at the Best Buy Theater in Time Square, Griffin III said his suit won't be "anything too flashy. What I wear will be fine and sophisticated, and we'll move on from there." But as for his choice of socks, he said, "I have made a sock selection, but I think it's best that everyone finds out at the show."
The other finalists for the Davey O'Brien Award are quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Case Keenum of Houston. Joining RG3 as Heisman finalists are Luck, running backs Trent Richardson of Alabama and Montee Ball of Wisconsin and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu of LSU.