Jon E. Garrett
Writing the future of journalism one post at a time



SPORTS

September 10, 2012

Before there was RG3, there was just Robert Griffin

With his team down 10-0 and just over four minutes remaining on the game clock before halftime, Robert Griffin III got his team to respond. Working the opposing offense as easily and deftly as a master puppeteer. He captained a six-play scoring drive – capped by a 44-yard touchdown strike – to put his team back firmly back in the game with 2:09 to spare.

By Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

They would go on to lose 21-7, but in Griffin’s defense no one ever tacked on III to his name back then when they addressed him. His opponents were legitimate first-teamers led by a 1,000-yard rusher from the previous season, while most of his teammates would spend considerable time on the bench following the game, and at 15 years of age he had probably spent more time studying the driver’s handbook than his playbook.

The date was May 21, 2005. I was the beat writer for Copperas Cove High School sports for the Killeen Daily Herald. It was a Saturday. It was hot, as it often is when football is played in Texas, and there were not many expectations hoisted on Griffin yet. He was not a program’s potential savior, was years away from being college football’s best player and in his mind more likely destined for Olympic glory, rather than the bright lights and big hits of the NFL.

He was just another freshman in coach Jack Welch’s venerable preparatory program competing for a backup quarterback spot in the spring game on a squad that had finished 10-2 the year before with no district losses and made it to the second round of the playoffs.

Even then, however, he stood out.

“He’s too good to sit on the sideline,” Welch, who had raved about the young track star in previous visits to his office after the performance, told me after the game. “We’ll try to get him on the field either at receiver or in some type of back situation.”

They did, but it was when he was finally handed the keys to the Bulldawg offense for good as a junior, that the team put the pedal to the metal. In two years as a starter Griffin led the team to a 25-4 record, passed for 3,357 yards rushed for 2,161 and led his team to Texas’ Class 4A championship game. For his effort his award was a loss in that ultimate contest of his high school career and looked at as an athlete by some Division I powerhouses, before choosing to hang his hat at Baylor – where they believed in the QB he could be and whose stellar track program would afford him the opportunity to make the Olympic Games he said he had dreamed of being a part of since middle school.

The rest is history, whose books Griffin seems to rewrite with every sidestep on his journey towards greatness. The latest chapter – his near unheard of near perfect start as a rookie quarterback in the NFL Sunday, dismantling the ballyhooed defense of the New Orleans Saints to lead the Washington Redskins to a 40-32 victory over the home team. He finished the game with 320 yards passing and two touchdowns, completing 19 of his 26 passes on the day for a lofty 139.9 passer rating, while adding 42 yards on the ground.

It was an astounding beginning to his pro career, and if were not for the freakish year that Cam Newton had in 2011 it might have instantly put him on track for the best season for a rookie quarterback of all time.

The bar has once again been raised on what people expect from Griffin. Sometimes I wonder when he will finally succumb to the pressure of those hopes. Then I remember the skinny kid with the dashing smile and mild demeanor who just loved to run. The one thrown to the sharks as a freshman to compete against first-team defenders from a playoff caliber squad eager to make the freshman, well, look like one.

He finished that day with minus 4-yards rushing and completed just one of the seven passes he threw. But for just one moment, with a little over two minutes to go before the half, he took the snap, rolled out, extended the defense with his speed and brought the crowd to his feet as he found his man for the score. Right then we all knew we had glimpsed the origins of something special, pardon us all for not having enough imagination at the time to assess just how exceptional he could and would become.

 

 



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Jon E. Garrett





 
 

 

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2 Comments


  1. Eliza

    This article brought a few tears to my eyes (as afCove Dawg football grandma 🙂 )
    You’re right about wondering when will he succumb- I do too, hoping its only to what can bring further greatness & admiration in RG111’s life .


  2. my son will always remember the time Robert took as a tutor. He’s got a heart the size of Texas and it’s so cool to see him live the dream! Great article!



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