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December 11, 2011
Baylor QB will bring Heisman label to Alamo Bowl
NEW YORK - Robert Griffin III is Baylor's Superman and when he won the Heisman Trophy he was wearing the socks to prove it.
Who knows? Maybe they even helped him outluck Andrew Luck.
The junior quarterback known as RG3 beat out the preseason favorite from Stanford on Saturday night, becoming the first Baylor player to take home college football's most famous trophy.
Right before his name was called, Griffin took a deep breath. When it was announced he broke into a bright smile, his face framed by his long braided hair. Then it was hugs all around, for his coaches, his parents, his sister and his fiance.
He took a few long strides up to the stage and let out a laugh when he got there, making a joke about the Superman socks-complete with capes on the back - he was wearing before going into his acceptance speech.
"This is unbelievably believable," he said. "It's unbelievable because in the moment we're all amazed when great things happen.
But it's believable because great things don't happen without hard work."
Griffin started the season on the fringe of the Heisman conversation, a talented and exciting player on a marginal team, while Luck was already being touted as a No. 1 NFL draft pick.
Draft day might very well still belong to Luck, but Griffin diverted the Heisman to Waco, Texas, to a school that has never had a player finish better than fourth in the voting-and that was 48 years ago.
Griffin received 405 first-place votes and 1,687 points.
"Everybody associated with Baylor has a reason to celebrate tonight," he said.
Luck received 247 first-place votes and 1,407 points to become the fourth player to be Heisman runner-up in consecutive seasons and first since Arkansas running back Darren McFadden in 2006 and `07.
Luck was also first to congratulate Griffin.
"It was so well-deserved by Robert Griffin," Luck said. "It was very hard to be upset."
Alabama running back Trent Richardson third with 138 first-place votes and 978 points. Wisconsin running back Montee Ball (348 points) was fourth and the other finalist, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (327) was fifth.
Griffin's speech was as smooth as his game.
"If I can get everybody in the crowd to laugh it can make my speech a whole lot easier," he said later at his news conference, after showing off his blue and red socks with that familiar "S" on the front.
Griffin is a big fan of superheroes and cartoon characters, and socks. His favorite socks: SpongeBob.
But make no mistake, even though he was expected by most to win, he said: "My heart was beating really, really hard. I could feel it in my chest like they all said."
Griffin's highlights were simply spectacular-his signature moment coming on a long, cross-field touchdown pass with 8 seconds left to beat Oklahoma - and he put up dizzying numbers, completing 72 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdown passes and a nation-leading 192.3 efficiency rating.
More importantly, he lifted Baylor (9-3) to national prominence and one of the greatest seasons in school history. The 15th-ranked Bears won nine games for the first time in 25 years, beat the Sooners for the first time ever and went 4-0 in November.
That was after winning a total of four November games in their first 15 Big 12 seasons. And the last three games? Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas.
Luck was the front-runner from the moment in January he surprised many by returning to Stanford for one more season instead of jumping to the NFL to become a millionaire. He didn't disappoint, with 3,170 yards receiving, 35 touchdown passes, a completion percentage of 70 percent and a rating of 167.5.
Griffin outdid him using a similar formula: leading a downtrodden program at a private school out of the shadows of its powerful conference rivals with brilliant and heady play.
Luck made a sensational one-handed catch early in what turned out to be a blowout victory against UCLA. Nice.
Griffin made a 15-yard reception in traffic to convert a key third down on the game-winning drive in Baylor's opening 50-48 victory against TCU. Better.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder with sprinter's speed-he was an all-American in the 400-meter hurdles-had some early Heisman buzz, but faded in October as Baylor lost three of four. Griffin continued to pile up video game numbers, but not enough to compensate for the Bears' leaky defense.
He finished with a kick and shot up the Heisman charts on Nov. 19, when Baylor beat Oklahoma 45-38. Griffin passed for 479 yards and four touchdowns against the Sooners, including that sensational 34-yard, game-winner to Terrance Williams in the closing seconds.
He stated his case one last time on championship Saturday, capping his season with 320 yards passing and two TD passes and two touchdown runs in a 48-24 victory against Texas. Meanwhile, Luck and Richardson were idle, their regular seasons over.
"It seemed like the script was written perfectly for us to go out and win this award," Griffin said.
At that point it become obvious that quarterback Don Trull's fourth-place finish in 1963 would no longer be the Heisman standard at Baylor.
"We've done a great job resurrecting the program," Griffin said.
He is the son of two U.S. Army sergeants who settled in central Texas in a town called Copperas Cove near Fort Hood. When Griffin was a young boy, his father was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington state and they lived in Olympia.
"My Dad, he gave me everything he didn't have and some," he said. "And they say a mom's love is one of a kind, I can attest to that."
It was a recruiting coup for Baylor to land Griffin out of high school, though it was something of a package deal.
Griffin considered Washington State University but eventually committed to Houston and coach Art Briles, but when Baylor hired Briles away, Griffin switched up and followed the coach to a program that hadn't even played in a bowl game since 1994.
"Our offense is quarterback friendly without a doubt," Briles said. "We knew Robert was a complete fit for what we were looking for out of the quarterback position."
He started 11 games as an 18-year-old freshman in 2008 and tore a knee ligament three games into the 2009 season. He returned last year as good as new and with a newfound commitment and love of football. He threw for 3,501 yards and led Baylor to a 7-6 record and its first bowl appearance since 1994.
This season, his passing has improved and he's still a dangerous runner (644 yards and nine TDs). He has left little doubt that he's a pro prospect, though he's got one more game-the Alamo Bowl against Washington on Dec. 29 in San Antonio-to show his stuff.
An aspiring lawyer who is working on a master's degree in communications, he holds 46 school records and adoring Bears fans are praying he comes back for more.