But halfway there, suddenly fearful of what might happen out there on the inner-city gridiron to little Robert Griffin III, the youngest of Jacqueline and Robert Griffin Jr.’s three children, Uncle Shane turned the car around. The boy, skinny and quiet, with big innocent eyes, was staying with his Louisiana relatives only temporarily, while his mom and dad were doing their tour in South Korea.
Uncle Shane figured it would be a good idea if he were returned to them in one piece.
“I said to myself, ‘Man, these project kids are gonna tear him up, and Jackie would never forgive me if something happened to him,’ ” Shane Griffin recalled. “So I didn’t even sign him up. We went and got some snowballs instead.
“And I look back now — I was driving around with the future Heisman Trophy winner. And I didn’t even sign him up! Can you imagine that?”
Some 15 years later after destiny was delayed by the conscience of a loyal uncle, Robert Lee Griffin III will finally make his football debut in the city he calls “my true home town.” Home, Griffin has said, is where you go for Christmas every year, and for the Griffins that was — and to a certain extent still is — New Orleans, where both his parents were born and raised, and where dozens of family members still reside.
Griffin returns to New Orleans on Sunday as the rookie quarterback of the Washington Redskins, and the No. 2 overall pick of the NFL draft. Shortly after 1 p.m., he will make perhaps the most anticipated regular season debut in Redskins history, against the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.
Now 22, Griffin is already a man in full, with a $21.1 million contract, a ubiquitous nickname (RGIII) and the hopes of a franchise resting on his shoulders. The Heisman Trophy, earned as a junior at Baylor in 2011, sits on the mantel of his suburban Virginia home. He has a fiancee, Rebecca Liddicoat, whose high school class ring he wears around his neck day and night, alongside a dog tag with a Bible quote from Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”
Griffin’s time in New Orleans, which came in 1996-97 when he and his two sisters were forced to stay behind while his parents were deployed in South Korea, instilled in him an appreciation for family, a tolerance for humidity, a foolproof recipe for beignets and a healthy dose of street-smarts.