by Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider Report
Three weeks after subbing for an injured Robert Griffin III in the second half of a 66-42 win over Texas Tech, junior quarterback Nick Florence was one of 23 Baylor student-athletes who graduated during Saturday's winter commencement exercise.
Just don't ask him to choose which was better.
"Oh man, that's a tough decision," said Florence, who was 7-of-11 for 151 yards and two touchdowns in his first and only action of the 2011 season. "In the long run, probably graduation, but for the season that win against Tech was fun."
For the first 10 ½ games, Florence had never left the sidelines, planning on redshirting this season and leaving him with two more years of eligibility. But the junior from Garland, Texas, said he had no regrets about burning his redshirt.
"No way, it was absolutely worth it," he said. "It got us to nine wins, and I don't even know how much it did for Griff winning the Heisman. I just wanted to play my part, it was fun, and I don't regret it at all."
Some Heisman pundits wondered if Florence's performance might have actually hurt RG3's Heisman chances since the offense didn't miss a beat when he had to sit out with concussion-like symptoms. But Florence said it just "shows that we've got a lot of people around."
After earning his undergraduate degree in economics in 3 ½ years, Florence said he plans on working on his MBA next.
"It's a huge step," Florence said of his graduation. "Now I have the opportunity to go back and get a master's and keep playing. You couldn't ask for a better situation."
"Like I tell them, ultimately when those legs are gone, the mind lives on," Baylor coach Art Briles said, "so make sure you take care of your mind."
As the backup to the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, Florence said he would love the opportunity to play in his second straight bowl game when the 12th-ranked Bears (9-3) play Washington (7-5) in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 in San Antonio. He completed one pass for seven yards in last year's 38-14 Texas Bowl loss to Illinois.
"If my number's called, we're going to go out there and have a blast again," he said. "We're going to learn from last year and the mistakes we made. And we're going to take advantage of the opportunity. This year, we have the chance to get 10 wins for the second time in school history. So we're going to seize that and take advantage of it."
HEISMAN HYPE SLOWING DOWN: Besides being honored during halftime of the men's basketball game last Wednesday and interviewed by ESPN's Rebecca Lobo during Sunday's game between the top-ranked Lady Bears and No. 2 Connecticut, the "media circus" has slowed down for Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
"Honestly, it's slowed down a little bit, and thankfully for him," Baylor coach Art Briles said, "because I'm telling you he went on about a week ride that not many people ever go on. And he handled it as beautifully as anyone could ever expect. Which, that's not amazing to us, but it's amazing to the rest of the world, because we know him. But he's glad to be back to normal, glad to be back on the football field and doing what he does best. And that's helping Baylor win football games."
RG3 actually missed just one bowl practice on seven-day trip to Orlando, Fla., and New York for the College Football Awards Show and Heisman Trophy presentation.
"I know a lot of guys get caught up with all the media hoopla," Griffin III said, "but I'm not one of those guys. I'm going to make sure I go out and perform the best I can for my team."
The practice field is his refuge from the seemingly endless rounds of interviews that he handles like a champ.
"It's good to be around the guys," he said. "They'll give you a hard time. I've got this new outfit on, and the guys were like, 'Well, look at you, you win the Heisman, and you get a tricep pad and a forearm pad.' It's good to be around these guys. They keep me sane, and that's what I like."
Shown on the big screen at the Ferrell Center right before his interview, Griffin III did strike the Heisman pose, much to the delight of the record crowd of 10,627. "Coach Briles told me to," he said. "I don't do it very often, but coach was like, 'Strike it!' So I struck the pose."
And then he made a hasty exit, "because the attention's not supposed to be on me, it's supposed to be on the girls," RG3 said. "They did show me on the screen, and the crowd went wild. And that's all fine and dandy. But our time's coming, and the team will be ready for that."
"TWO DIGITS TURN INTO ONE": Briles is using that theme as motivation for the Bears to pick up their 10th win and possibly crack into the top 10 in the polls.
"Like we said, two digits turns into one," he said. "You get 10 wins, (and it) turns into a single (digit) ranking. That's what our goal is, to finish better than we started. And we've got a chance to do that."
Baylor's only previous 10-win season in program history was 1980, when the Southwest Conference champions finished 10-2.
Unlike last year, when they ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak, Baylor goes into this year's bowl riding a five-game winning streak.
"Completely opposite, first of all from a mentality standpoint, and then really just from a maturity standpoint," Briles said. "We're a lot more mature football team, a lot more experienced with that atmosphere, that feeling of working out for bowls. . . . Last year, we were happy to be in a bowl game, because it was the first time in 16 years, and rightfully so. But this year, we're focusing on taking care of business and going out and fighting hard for 60 minutes for a win. We want to finish with 10 wins. Not many people can put two digits on the table. We've got a chance to do it."
The Bears will arrive in San Antonio on Christmas Eve and have their first workout on Christmas morning.