“I always wanted to make my dad proud, but he never made me feel like I was obligated to do anything,” Griffin said.
The only slight deviation in the plan came the night Griffin turned 13. His father received a call that he’d be shipping out the next day to Iraq, where war was in its infant stages.
“He told me I was the man of the house, so I had to try to stick as much as I could to the plan he set out,” Griffin said.
They talked regularly by phone. Griffin continued training on his own and before long the family was reunited. By the time Griffin began high school, both his parents retired from the military and devoted themselves to their children’s activities.
Jacqueline made breakfast each morning and dropped her son off at school. She returned an hour later with a morning snack, and then made the five-mile drive again before noon to deliver lunch. She was back at the school in the afternoon with a pre-practice snack before heading to the sideline to film practice. That evening her husband would study the tape, calling Griffin over to discuss and dissect anything that stood out.
“I felt if they saw how devoted we were to them and the sacrifices we made so they could be the best they can be, then they’d only strive harder,” Jacqueline said.
Robert Jr. and Jacqueline both say they were always doing what their son wanted, and coaches say the Griffin parents were never too involved, never too pushy.
“Robert’s his own man. He’s going to do what he wants to do,” said Jack Welch, athletic director and head football coach at Copperas Cove High. “If he didn’t feel like doing something, he didn’t do it.”
Griffin watched plenty of television — “Dragon Ball Z” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” — and says his devotion to sports didn’t come with a high personal cost.
“I was still able to be a kid. . . . The fun that I sacrificed was hanging out all the time with my friends,” he said, “and that’s just something that I didn’t do.”
Quiet kid, funny socks
In the small towns across Texas, football serves as a cultural compass. Copperas Cove, 65 miles north of Austin, has a population of about 30,000. A tumbleweed couldn’t blow through town without hitting a strip mall. There’s just one high school, and football is king. Case in point: the team’s weight room is 10,000-square feet, at least three times the size of the Redskins’ in Northern Virginia.
Griffin played varsity basketball as a freshman and was obliterating track records each time he laced his spikes. Welch had his eyes on Griffin since elementary school and was eager to give him the starting quarterback job his junior year. By then, Griffin could already heave a ball 60 yards with little effort.