In fact, he said, they had “loved” the Army.
The rules in the Griffin house were simple and strict: Homework was the first duty. There was no hanging around without a purpose. Nobody got a car — kids didn’t need wheels. But along with rules came incentives: Top grades earned extra allowance. “The only thing Robert did was homework and play ball,” Copperas Cove High School football coach Jack Welch said. “He was very grounded, very rooted.”
When RGIII showed promise as an athlete the Griffins decided they could do worse than train him according to military principles. In addition to being a spectacular football player, he was a potential Olympic-caliber hurdler, and Robert Jr., who dabbled as a part-time track coach, took over his physical workouts. Jacqueline videotaped every single one of his practices. Together, the Griffins would review game tapes as if they were after-action reports. To correct his mistakes, they showed him tape of star athletes who did it the right way, Olympic hurdlers and NFL quarterbacks.
“The discipline the military has, the forethought, the planning, the backup planning, the after-action reviews, when I started to train Robert those are some of the tools we utilized,” Robert Jr. said. “They were expected in the military. It was part of our development as adults.”
After football practice at Copperas Cove High, when other kids were relaxing, Jack Welch would watch open-mouthed as RGIII would pull a tire with his father. Then “you would see him running the road on the way back to his house, up the hills,” Welch said.
By his senior year in high school, RGIII was class president and not only had earned his diploma early, he graduated seventh among his peers. “He was a scholar,” Welch said. He had also qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials as 400-meter hurdler, and was being recruited by most of the major football powers. He was a stunningly diverse talent, according to Welch.
“There are some who can run awfully fast, and some who can throw awfully hard,” Welch said. “But you have not seen one as brilliant, and intelligent, and elusive. He puts all the ingredients together.” To top it off, he was a superb leader, though he exercised what Welch called a subtle “servant-type” leadership, always bringing doughnuts to his linemen and deflecting credit.
Most of the schools recruiting him, however, were so in love with his sprinter’s speed that they wouldn’t promise to use him at quarterback. Instead they wanted to transform him to a receiver or running back. He discarded those, and instead committed to Art Briles and Baylor, which also had a world-class track program under director Clyde Hart, who coached sprinter Michael Johnson.