Also at Baylor, he fell in love with a young woman from Colorado, Rebecca Liddicoat. On Oct. 23, 2010, a couple of hours after he had passed for 404 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Kansas State, Griffin proposed to her during a candlelit ceremony — complete with a love song Griffin himself had written for the occasion — in the Baylor indoor practice facility.
The fact Liddicoat was white scarcely mattered to Griffin’s immediate family.
“Their mind-set is, they love each other,” Jacqueline Griffin said. “Like she says to me, she doesn’t see him as African American; she sees him as a man. He doesn’t see her as a Caucasian woman; he sees her as a woman. My husband and I, and her parents, we all felt we did good — because they see each other as equal in every way.”
‘A post-racial athlete’
What does Robert Griffin III see when he looks at himself?
“I try to associate myself as just being myself — and being a person, an American citizen, going out there every day and just trying to be successful,” he said.
He is of no particular place: born in Japan, shuttled around as an Army brat early in his life, raised primarily in Texas — but without any outward traits that would peg him as a Texan. He calls New Orleans “home” because that is where his family has its roots and went for Christmas.
“Cultures are different wherever you go,” Griffin said in April, “and I try not to go in and [impose] my culture on anything. I think that’s a reflection of my military background. Having lived in so many places, you just go in it, see what’s going on and . . . try to make your niche [and remain] who you are.”
Some superstar athletes work hard to cultivate the sort of universal appeal that Griffin seems to come by naturally.
“I find myself wondering if he isn’t an example of what a post-racial athlete is,” said longtime Washington Post sports columnist Michael Wilbon, now at ESPN. “When people thought Michael Jordan did that, it was a construct: ‘I’m going to try to be this.’ I don’t think RGIII has to try. He might just be the guy.”
It was Jordan — Griffin’s idol as a youngster — who famously said in 1990, when defending his refusal to endorse an African American Democratic Senate candidate in his home state of North Carolina, “Republicans buy shoes, too.” It was a backhand reference to his profitable Nike sneaker line, but the backlash against Jordan from the black community was strong.
You can already see a growing social awareness in Griffin, from his current involvement with the “Rock the Vote” movement (though he refuses to reveal whether he votes Republican or Democrat) to his visit to a Broad Run High School football game in Virginia earlier this month after being beckoned by students on Twitter.