Commentary

Robert Griffin III is Baylor's BMOC

Originally Published: September 1, 2010
By David Ubben | ESPN.com

WACO, Texas -- It's 7:30 a.m., and Robert Griffin III reaches over to quiet his blaring cell phone, signaling Tuesday's official start. Baylor's sophomore quarterback lives alone in a two-bedroom, off-campus apartment east of the Ferrell Center, the school's basketball arena.

"A natural loner," Griffin calls himself.

The morning pains in his knee have been gone for months, faint remnants of a torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended his 2009 season 11 months earlier.

He crawls out of bed and gets ready to take on his Tuesday/Thursday slate of classes for the first time, a de facto second first day of school.

Perhaps no player in college football means more to his team, campus and city than Griffin. An electrifying playmaker, he's given the program hope, belief that the bowl bid that's eluded the program since 1994 could be only months away.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin
Baylor Athletic CommunicationsBaylor coach Art Briles and quarterback Robert Griffin were up early for a television appearance.

7:55 a.m. A white satellite truck is parked in the corner of the lot outside the Allison Indoor Facility, Baylor's practice field. Wires leak out the back door of the truck and into the building.

Inside, two freelance camera people from Austin set up Griffin's before-class activity -- one every student everywhere faces on the first day, of course -- an appearance on national television.

8 a.m. The bell in the center of campus tolls eight times, alerting all in earshot that classes have officially begun. Griffin isn't due in Advanced Public Speaking until 9:30 and rolls into a curbside parking spot outside the facility in a blue Chrysler Pacifica. He slips off his gray headphones, slides his white-rimmed sunglasses onto his forehead and makes his way inside. Donning gray shorts and black sneakers whose white trim matches the Nike swoosh on his socks, he's handed a crisp white polo shirt to tug on. He lays his chosen attire, a white shirt depicting a winter forest scene, to the side. Both cover his shiny Puma belt buckle, a subtle piece of flair for a guy who insists he doesn't do "the bling-bling thing."

8:36 a.m. Griffin and his coach, Art Briles, are miked up and ready to go for a chat via satellite on ESPN's "First Take," which broadcasts from Bristol, Conn. Briles, in a white Baylor mock turtleneck, smiles and cracks a joke before the camera flips on.

"I guess we'll try and keep it PG for 'em," he says.

8:40 a.m. Briles answers questions about the summer's conference realignment and his quarterback seated beside him. Griffin answers a question -- the 500 millionth, by his estimation -- about his knee.

9:31 a.m. It's the first day. Confusion happens. After parking his car, Griffin misreads his schedule and ends up in the classroom for his Monday/Wednesday/Friday class. He realizes his mistake in time to get to the right room.

"I was in the wrong class, too, man," Griffin tells a classmate who arrives after him. "I was like, 'Why am I back in the same room again?'"

He's a minute late, but the professor is a few minutes later. Griffin takes a seat in the middle of the front row as a few classmates behind him trade glances and reach for their cell phones to fire off text messages.

9:33 a.m. Griffin's favorite receiver, Kendall Wright, shows up for Advanced Public Speaking, too. "Oh no," Griffin jokes. "Tell me they did not let him in here."

The two slap hands on Wright's way to the back row, where he grabs one of the last available seats in the classroom.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin
Manny Flores/ Icon SMIGriffin ran for 846 yards and 13 touchdowns his freshman season.

10:05 a.m. A quick run through the syllabus, and Griffin's first class of the day is over. He walks over to a shaded area outside the Student Union Building, where Griffin's friends and other athletes often kill time between classes. A familiar face starts the semester with some smack talk and a smile.

"I know you're not going to be talking all that stuff when I dunk on you," says Brittney Griner, the 6-foot-8 star of the women's team. "We can go to the Ferrell Center today. Write it down. Brittney Griner is gonna dunk on Robert Griffin. Then I'll come out to the football field and throw better than you."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Griffin says to laughter. "Let me go get my brace, and we'll go play right now."

10:12 a.m. "Ahh, they killed me!" Griffin yells as half the room rolls on the carpet laughing. His spot on "First Take" is airing, but the show resurrected his freshman year head shot, featuring a 17-year-old Griffin with a goofy smile and misshapen afro. "They got me right out of the shower," he explains. "I had just taken my braids out, and I've taken two pictures since then!"

10:23 a.m. "We actually played last summer," Griffin says of Griner, while dressing a pair of grilled chicken sandwiches with mustard and barbecue sauce. "I killed her. She's pretty good; she played with us in some pickup games. She'd dunk on 'em, but nobody can dunk like that guy." Griffin gestures to Baylor's high-flying forward on the hardwood, Quincy Acy, who is picking out a beverage from the food court behind him.

Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew sent Griffin a text message after he tore his ACL last September.

"You know, by the time you're healed, it'll be time for the Big 12 tournament. You should come out if you want," it said, according to Griffin. Drew has tried to get Griffin to play for him a couple of times since the quarterback first came on campus. Griffin always has declined.

"Juggling the three sports would just be too tough," says Griffin, who also won a Big 12 title in the 400-meter hurdles as a freshman and plans to return to the track this spring.

10:52 a.m. On the way to his 11 a.m. class, Griffin walks back past the shaded courtyard where he stopped earlier. He slaps five with his 330-pound right guard, Robert T. Griffin. The world does not implode.

11:16 a.m. Griffin's Minority and Ethnic Group Politics professor Joseph S. Brown explains what makes his class great: discussion.

"We will learn more from each other than anything else," he says. "We're all different people with different backgrounds."

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin
Manny Flores/Icon SMIGriffin redshirted last season after injuring his knee against Northwestern State in the season's third game.

11:42 a.m. Another syllabus down, and it's Griffin's turn to introduce himself to his 20 classmates seated around rectangular tables arranged in a square.

"Hi, I'm Robert Griffin. I'm a political science major and a communications minor. I'm a senior; I'll graduate in December. My hometown is Copperas Cove, Texas, but I'm also from New Orleans, Louisiana. My career goal is to go to law school and be a lawyer, get involved in human rights and also be a professional athlete."

12:05 p.m. Class is done for the day, and Griffin already is at the campus rec center, indulging in a round of one of his favorite hobbies, pingpong. He's talking quarterbacks.

"Terrelle Pryor's texted me a little bit lately," he says. "He was telling me how much he's been emphasizing the check-down routes and how much easier that can make the game."

The conversation was short. Griffin says he'll be cordial to opponents who contact him, but don't mistake his pleasantries for a forging of friendship. He saves that for teammates.

"Why would I want to help someone who can come back and use what I told him to beat me?" Griffin says.

Shortly after Pryor first contacted him on Facebook, Griffin told Briles, who laughed.

"We oughta see them in a bowl sometime," Briles said.

"He thinks big like that," Griffin says. "I love that."

12:37 p.m. Griffin walks back into the Allison Center and slips on his white Baylor polo again over his black tank top undershirt. He shoots his second and third appearances to air later that day, one with a show on ESPNU and another with Erin Andrews on "College Football Live."

"We feel the burden," Griffin says, commenting on the school's 16-year bowl drought. "It's been three years for us but way longer for Baylor."

12:56 p.m. "Good job, Griff," Briles says with a slap on his quarterback's knee, after the cameras are off. "Nice manners at the end there, with the 'Miss Andrews.'"

12:58 p.m. Griffin pitches an idea hatched earlier in the day to Briles and a few other school officials: a postseason one-on-one matchup with Griner in January, followed by a dunk contest. The school could sell tickets and make money, he says, and the women's team could benefit from the buzz.

"I'd have to whip out my between-the-legs dunk," Griffin says. "I can do it. Or I should say I used to be able to do it."

1:12 p.m. Griffin walks in the door of a sandwich shop on the edge of campus for a second lunch. He's quickly greeted by Christie, one of the restaurant's workers, who asks for an update on his summer as one of her co-workers puts together Griffin's footlong turkey sub with lettuce, tomato and mustard. He adds a pair of chocolate-chip cookies to top off the meal.

"You ready for the season?" Christie asks.

"Oh yeah," Griffin says.

"I love him!" she says as he leaves the counter.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin
Baylor Athletic Communications A new addition to Griffin's wardrobe: a right knee brace.

1:16 p.m. "How's the knee?" one of the other workers asks. Griffin assures them it's fine.

1:25 p.m. Griffin heads back for the training room at the football team's facility. Meetings are at 2:15, and he's got to stretch. On the way in, he starts talking linebackers, and Travis Lewis from Oklahoma, one of the Big 12's best, comes up.

"He's a trash-talker; I like it," Griffin said. "I'll do it, too. I'll give guys their due when they deserve it, and they beat us pretty good my freshman year. But ask him about that stiff-arm I gave him. He'll remember."

Griffin heads inside and hops on a training table where Jessica, a team trainer, contorts his knees and hips, getting him loose for the afternoon practice. He stops and gets his ankles taped before heading into the locker room.

1:41 p.m. Griffin's locker is between those of fellow quarterback Nick Florence and tight end Brad Taylor. Prominently displayed is an unsourced quote: "Jordan was everything to the Bulls, but they never won a championship until the rest of his team believed they were champions."

Below the sign are his black and white cleats with "RG-10" written in black permanent marker on the back of the heel.

Above it, his shoulder pads and red "Don't hit me" No. 10 quarterback jersey. His gold helmet sits beside.

Griffin slips on his gray flak jacket to protect his ribs and heads back out to the training room to eat his lunch before meetings.

1:53 p.m. Griffin takes a seat on the training table, opens his sub and starts talking about belief. This time, in relation to TCU, Baylor's Week 3 opponent, which opens the season ranked in the top 10. "Winning just is so reliant on belief. I look at TCU, and they don't have the best athletes in the country," Griffin says. "But when you start winning and win and win and win, people buy in. They believe. They're not all world beaters, but they believe. That's what we're trying to do here."

2:04 p.m. Griffin keeps telling anyone who will listen about his idea for the winter, his showdown with Griner. "I don't know if it'll happen," he tells a teammate. "But I'd love it. We'd pack out the Ferrell Center."

2:12 p.m. Time for the quarterbacks' prepractice meeting and film session. Griffin walks upstairs and takes a seat next to Briles, who is sitting at the head of a long rectangular table surrounded by white boards on each of the room's walls, covered with names of the team's plays, categorized by play type.

3:17 p.m. On the practice field, Griffin's gold helmet is strapped on top of a white do-rag covering his hanging braids. On his knee, a new piece of equipment added this spring: a hulking brace.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin
Baylor Athletic Communications Griffin hopes to inspire a belief that the Bears can make their first bowl game since 1994.

3:43 p.m. Jacqueline Griffin, Robert's mother, walks inside holding his 2-year-old niece, Jania. His mother comes to every practice; she's done it for as long as she can remember. Football, basketball, whatever Robert is practicing, she's been there.

"It's kind of a tradition," she says.

She and his father, Robert Griffin Jr., are both retired from the military, but his father is back at Fort Hood working on a master's degree in psychology. He makes the 70-mile drive to Waco when he can, but the quarterback's mother often stays in the second bedroom of his apartment during the season.

3:57 p.m. Griffin is flushed from the pocket during 11-on-11 drills. Rolling to his left, he plants on his back foot and whips a pass down the left sideline. A streaking Wright hauls it in beyond a stumbling cornerback for a 40-yard touchdown. Griffin's body language is slight, but the white teeth visible underneath his clear visor make it obvious: He knows he's done something good.

4:19 p.m. Briles gives his players a five-minute break. Griffin visits with Briles shortly before trotting to the sideline to take a seat by his father, who arrived minutes earlier. That brought the total number of Robert Griffins inside the Allison Center to three. Griffin tells his dad about the day's biggest development in his mind: Griffin versus Griner.

"We've got to make this thing between me and Brittney happen," he says. "January is after our season and right when theirs is starting to pick up."

5:28 p.m. Practice ends without a turnover from Griffin and plenty of touchdown throws in pass skeleton and 11-on-11 work. Griffin joins the team's huddle on the 35-yard line for a short post-practice meeting. After Briles dismisses his team, Griffin slips outside for another interview with a camera crew from ESPNU.

6 p.m. The interviews are done. So are practice, meetings and class. Griffin slips off his helmet and walks across the team's outdoor practice field with it in hand. Time to grab dinner with the team before he heads back to his apartment for an early bed time. Tomorrow, it'll be time to do it all over again.

David Ubben covers Big 12 football for ESPN.com.