Given its history, who would have thought a Heisman candidate would come out of Baylor University? Not many, but Robert Griffin III is forcing people to take notice of the Bears and take a long look at Griffin’s Heisman resume.
Griffin’s season looks like it has come out of a video game on rookie-mode, with the insane numbers he has put up thus far. He has 3678 yards passing and 34 touchdowns on only four interceptions. Couple that with his 4.3 second 40 track speed when he scrambles out of the pocket, and Griffin is the ultimate defensive nightmare.
Mack Brown gives Griffin perhaps the highest praise possible when he compares him to a pair of Texas legends.
“I would compare him to what Colt and Vince did for us because when you got the guy under the center that we have to try to stop, he is the dominant player they have,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown.
“He is the focal point. He’s their confidence. He’s their heartbeat. When he walks in that huddle they all believe that they’re going to win the game.”
That’s lofty praise for a quarterback who’s career up until this season has been defined by a major injury, rather than for his ability to make magic happen on the field.
Griffin missed the majority of the 2009 season after tearing his ACL in a game against Northwestern State. He was granted a medical redshirt after the year and came back in 2010 as a sophomore once again. He had a good season passing--he threw for 3501 yards--but showed only flashes that would indicate the elite level of play he has displayed this year.
Griffin worked hard this offseason to improve his passing ability, and it has paid off. He now stands in the pocket and zips the ball around the field on par with the best quarterbacks in the country.
“He’s a much more complete passer,” said Texas senior Emmanuel Acho. "I don’t think people give him enough credit for how good a thrower he is. That’s something that we are not taking lightly.”
That ability to be a deadly accurate passer, and the speed he has to make plays like Chris Johnson when he pulls the ball down and runs with it, have people talking that Griffin could be a top 5 pick, or even a challenger to Andrew Luck, for the No. 1 overall spot.
But that’s in the future, for now he has his eyes towards Texas, and helping Baylor finish what is perhaps the best season in school history. One thing could stand in the way of that though, another injury. Griffin was hurt last week in Baylor’s game against Texas Tech, where a huge hit knocked him out of the second half of the matchup, but it will take more than that to keep RG3 off the field for back to back weeks.
“He is cleared,” said Baylor head coach Art Briles. “He is 100 percent ready to go.”
Baylor will be competing for a top bowl game spot and as high as a second place finish in the Big 12. But as important as team accomplishments are, all eyes will be on Griffin and his performance, in his last shot to impress the Heisman voters.
“Being on the national stage, being on ABC certainly helps, playing a team the caliber of Texas, with the national recognition that they have certainly helps the cause,” Briles said of Griffin’s Heisman chances.
Though, Briles is quick to praise Griffin for his team-first attitude and notes that Griffin would trade a Heisman for another win any day.
“Robert will be the first to sit here and tell you that if he throws eight passes and completes two and we win the football game, he is going to be extremely happy. That is the way Robert is. He is team first. Big we, little me is the way I like to put it. He is team first all of the way.”
Griffin is incredible though, and it is almost 100 percent likely that if the Bears come away with a win this Saturday, it will be because of an outstanding individual performance from their star.
The Longhorns’ knows who it needs to contain in order to come away with a victory when they head up I-35 this weekend. They also know what will happen if he runs wild on them, because they may be appearing in a certain highlight reel in the “Big Apple”.
“If we don’t play well, we’ll end up on all the highlight shows, and we’d rather not do that. We don’t want to go to New York,” said Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.