“He would have been extraordinarily proud of what this young man is doing,” said Irene Griffin, his widow. “Even though he couldn’t see, he’d be there watching and having people telling him what Robert is doing.”
Robert Jr.’s own relationship with his father’s name was complicated by the fact that the suffix — “Junior” — gnawed at him, making him feel less of a man.
“My mom or dad, and my oldest sister, they could get away with it,” he said, “but anybody else referring to me like that? I didn’t like it.”
For the same reason, Griffin corrected anyone who tried to refer to his son as Trey. He also wasn’t crazy about “Lil’ Rob.” “I only saw negative connotations to that,” he said. “I wanted him to be called Robert.”
Nor did anyone ever think to call the boy “the third” — until the day the younger Griffin, then 18, suited up for his first game at Baylor in 2008. In the stands that day, Robert Griffin Jr. was stunned to see “GRIFFIN III” across his son’s back. The gesture, the younger Griffin would say later, was intended to honor his grandfather’s memory and his father’s sacrifices.
He has been Robert Griffin III ever since — except when he is RGIII, a nickname coined by a Waco, Tex., sportscaster — and he will have GRIFFIN III across his back today when he takes the field for the first time in his ancestral home. The symbolism is not lost on the young quarterback.
“It will be special for me to have my whole family there, to be able to watch the Griffin name on the back of a jersey in the NFL for the first time,” he told reporters Wednesday. “For my family, it will be huge.”
Katrina’s long shadow
Seven years after Hurricane Katrina blew through and put his first floor under six feet of water, John Ross is just now getting around to rebuilding the house he has owned for the last 36 years, where he raised his children, including the former Jacqueline Ross.
That’s how it is with the most sought-after contractors in New Orleans: They rebuild everyone else’s homes before they get around to their own.
“I’ve probably done 40, maybe 50, maybe more,” Ross said, standing outside the gutted shell of his house on Desaix Boulevard in the City Park neighborhood of New Orleans. “I helped mostly elderly people, because after the storm, these contractors were ripping off people. It made me sick.”
Like most folks in New Orleans, the Griffins and Rosses can divide their lives into two periods: pre-Katrina and post-Katrina. When the storm hit, it scattered members of the extended family in all directions — to Shreveport, Nacogdoches, Birmingham, Houston.
In Copperas Cove, where Robert Griffin III was then 15 and a rising star in track and field, Jacqueline and Robert Griffin Jr. opened their doors to a dozen family members who had been forced to evacuate. Some of them, their houses destroyed, stayed for a year, and one, Jacqueline’s grandmother, Evelyn B. Thomas, never went back. Now 86, she lives in California with her oldest son.