It was supposed to be “the era of unbridled optimism.” Or at least that’s how long-time Washington Post writer, radio host and “Pardon the Interruption” star Tony Kornheiser described Robert Griffin III, following his impressive debut for the Washington Redskins in 2012. However, since his rookie season, the once bright, unstoppable star of RG3 is fading fast and nearing extinction following the latest in a string of major injuries.
Coming out of high school in Texas, Griffin was a four-star recruit, wanted by big-time colleges for his ability to run hurdles as much as his ability to quarterback an offense. Griffin initially committed to the University of Houston, but switched his commitment to Baylor after Houston Head Coach Art Briles accepted the same position there.
Griffin enrolled at Baylor for the spring semester in 2008. Competing on the track team, Griffin ran the 400-metre hurdles that semester. He also dominated the Big 12 competition and finish third in the NCAA that season. Griffin’s early college success would give him the chance to compete at the 2008 United States’ Olympic trials. At the age of 17, he made it to the semi-finals, but failed to qualify for Beijing. The initial foundation for his stardom was ignited, and he hadn’t taken a snap on the football field.
Griffin would later be named the starting quarterback for the Baylor football team. His freshman season saw him capture the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year after he completed 59.9 per cent of his passes for 2091 yards and 15 touchdowns. But it was his explosive running ability that put Griffin on the map. He finished the season with 846 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. Baylor finished 4-8, near the bottom of the Big 12 standings.
Griffin’s initial season was a sign of what was to come during the next four years of his life, but his sophomore season foreshadowed the past four years of his career.
Two games into his second season, Griffin showed improvement throwing the football. Early in Baylor’s third game of the season, Griffin tore his ACL and was granted a medical redshirt from the NCAA. He was dismissed to the classroom and rehab room. While at Baylor, Griffin graduated in three years with a GPA of 3.67 and a degree in political science.
After a year of rehab, Griffin returned to the starting lineup for his redshirt sophomore season. Griffin’s ascent to stardom continued, as Baylor reached its first bowl game in 16 years, finishing with a 7-6 record. Griffin continued to improve as a passer, completing 67 per cent of his pass for 3501 yards and 22 touchdowns. The prior year’s injury did not have an effect on Griffin’s running ability, as he ran for 635 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Entering his redshirt junior season, Griffin was a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, but nowhere near winning it. That would all change after one game. Unranked Baylor hosted the fourteenth-ranked Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, in a nationally televised primetime Sunday night game. In what can only be described as an instant classic, Baylor defeated TCU 50-48, with Griffin electrifying the Waco crowd. Griffin completed 21 of 27 passes for 359 yards and five touchdown passes, officially becoming a star. The nickname RG3 was nationally known.
Baylor finished the season 10-3 and ranked thirteenth in the Associated Press poll. In the classroom, Griffin graduated and began working on his masters in communications. On the football field, he completed 70.2 per cent of his passes for 4293 yards and 37 touchdowns, while adding another 10 touchdowns and 699 yards rushing. Griffin was awarded the Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football.
But Griffin had the type of star power that turned Baylor itself into a star. Before Griffin’s arrival, Baylor rarely won anything, but with the Griffin and Briles combination, Baylor became a winning destination for the top recruits. Despite its location between Dallas and Austin, nobody ever wanted to come to Baylor until RG3 achieved stardom.
A few weeks later after winning the Heisman, Griffin played his final game for Baylor. When the lights shined the brightest on national television, so did RG3. Griffin put on yet another highlight reel in a nationally televised primetime game, a trend throughout his career. The season started the same way it began for Baylor, an instant classic. Baylor defeated Washington 67-56 behind Griffin’s 350 yards and two touchdowns.