Confidence or cockiness?
Griffin earned his bachelor’s of political science in three years. He says he doesn’t drink and doesn’t smoke — “never have and probably never will” — and calls himself a homebody. Teammates say when he does attend a party, Griffin says hello and leaves within 30 minutes.
“There has not been a night that I went home, put my head on the pillow and wondered, ‘Is Robert doing all right?’ ” said Philip Montgomery, an offensive coordinator on the Baylor coaching staff.
Kazadi has to think back to Griffin’s freshman season — November 2008 — to recall a time the quarterback stepped out line. The strength coach says he went on a tirade, telling Baylor players that breakfast was now mandatory and warning of dire consequences. The next day Griffin skipped the morning meal.
“Where were you?” Kazadi asked.
“I had to go vote,” Griffin said.
It wasn't exactly a capital offense, and Kazadi didn’t know what to do. Griffin, though, volunteered to accept the sentence — bear crawls the length of the field three times.
“That was the only time I had to punish him,” he said.
Many of Griffin’s other miscues have been inadvertent and others open to interpretation. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more in Baylor’s win over Texas last December. Immediately following the game, ESPN’s Samantha Steele mentioned the prospects of winning college football’s top award. “I could be wrong,” Griffin said on live television, “but I think Baylor won its first Heisman tonight.”
His supporters will point out that Griffin was trying to shift the focus to his school, not himself — not to mention, he was proven right a month later when he edged out Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck for the Heisman. The Indianapolis Colts are expected to select Luck with the No. 1 pick in the draft Thursday.
Still, Griffin’s words weren’t exactly coated in humility.
“It’s hard to temper what you have to say when you’re that much better than other people,” said Heath Nielsen, Baylor’s assistant athletic director for communications. “That line between . . . having confidence and coming across as arrogant and cocky is a really fine line. He kind of weaved back and forth at times.”
Griffin makes no apologies for his competitive streak — for wanting to win Baylor’s first Heisman, for wanting to be the top player in the draft. And his teammates say that side of his personality is also what makes Griffin refreshing and unique.
When Griffin turned 21, he and about 30 friends and teammates got together for a birthday paintball outing. For Griffin, competing is fun and winning essential.
“He was one of the last guys standing every single round,” said Dixon, a Baylor defensive back.
Reviving the Redskins
Terry Shea is the quarterback guru who has helped prepare several players for the NFL draft, including Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, St. Louis’s Sam Bradford and Tampa’s Josh Freeman, all quarterbacks. He spent nine weeks earlier this year working with Griffin. “He’s probably got a higher ceiling than any of them,” Shea said.
Griffin can do so much with his feet, but he also fires bullets with his arm. A small wrist-flick and the ball spins with more velocity than most coaches have ever seen.
“He’s a freak athlete. Dude, it’s unreal,” said Nick Florence, Griffin’s backup at Baylor. “It’s not fair.”
His friends say money and celebrity won’t change Griffin. His family says his work ethic won’t waver. His coaches say he won’t have trouble learning a pro-style offense. And NFL experts say the only thing that can derail Griffin is injury.
“There are a lot of different ways we measure quarterbacks on and off the field,” said Steve Mariucci, a former NFL coach and current NFL Network analyst. “This guy seems to have an ‘A’ grade in all of them.”
Griffin will have to learn a new offensive system and must polish his skill-set. He says he really likes the Redskins coaches, with whom he met multiple times in the weeks leading up to the draft. Due diligence, team officials called it. But no matter how hard they looked — like everyone else — it’s hard to find a lot wrong with Griffin.
“I don't have any concerns about this kid. What you see is what you get. . . . He’s a special young man,” said ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, a former NFL head coach who noted that Griffin almost single-handedly turned around the Baylor football program. “I think he can do the same thing for the Redskins. He can revive the Redskins.”