Friday Night Lights: Robert Griffin

Tonight, the Baylor Bears play at undefeated Connecticut at 7:00 central on ESPN2. Connecticut sits 3-0 on the season and should be a major player in the Big East Conference at the end of the year. However, I won’t be watching this game because I love Big East football. I’ll be watching the game because of true freshman QB Robert Griffin of the Baylor Bears. If you live outside the state of Texas, chances are you probably aren’t too familiar with him.

Although Griffin was a 4 star recruit from Texas, not many teams were going to give him the chance to play QB in college. Eventually, then Houston Cougar coach Art Briles would be the first to offer him that opportunity and Griffin took it. Yada, yada, yada, Briles goes to Baylor, yada, yada, yada, Griffin lands in Waco a semester early for spring classes, spring football, and track .

“I felt I could play early (at Houston),” Griffin says. “I didn’t
want to sit and wait and watch somebody else play. But I told everybody when I committed that my commitment to Houston was really a commitment to Coach Briles. I wanted to stay true to him.”

After spring football ended, Griffin joined the track team for the final three weeks. In those final three weeks, Griffin would become an All-American in the 400 m hurdles after winning the Big 12 championship and the NCAA Midwest Regional title with a time of 49.22 seconds. Eventually, he would win the bronze at the NCAAs in Des Moines, IA and qualify for the US Olympic Trials.

Griffin didn’t start week one in a 41-13 loss to Wake Forest (was behind former Miami, FL QB Kirby Freeman) but has started the last two games vs. Northwestern State and Washington State. In his two starts, Baylor has thrown up 45 and 51 points. His passing numbers are solid: 33/53 passing with 548 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. His rushing numbers are frightening: 32 attempts, 288 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Last week vs. Washington State, to go along with 129 yards passing and 1 touchdown, Griffin had 217 yards rushing on 11 attempts and broke the Big 12 record for avg yards/rush at 19.7 that included three runs of 58, 58, and 57 yards. With that performance, Griffin won the Big 12 offensive player of the week award ahead of Chase Daniel and Sam Bradford and now has been selected twice for ESPN’s Top 10 plays.

Perhaps the biggest reason why Griffin brings hope to the perennial doormat of the Big 12 is that his upbringing has grounded him. After being born in Japan and raised by a retired Army sergeant, Griffin is much more mature than most freshman 18 year old football players. Last spring, he earned a 3.65 GPA in 16 hours of classes and one day wants to go to law school. In other words, he will be playing football for four years. On the field, comparisons are already being made to Eric Crouch, Michael Bishop, Brad Smith, Seneca Wallace, and yes, Vince Young. Like I’ve said before though, I peg him more like former Oregon QB Dennis Dixon. I’m not ready to anoint him ‘the next coming,’ but I am saying Baylor needed help and they got it – a lot of it. Baylor isn’t going to win many more games this year, but they aren’t going to be a bye week anymore for other Big 12 teams. Tonight’s game vs. UCONN should give Baylor opponents an underestimated idea of what it’s going to be like having to prepare for them in the upcoming years.

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