Some Texans are great quarterbacks, and some are great at Latin, and then there’s Robert Griffin III.
RGIII, to use his nickname, is the Baylor star from Copperas Cove who won the Heisman trophy in 2011 and was promptly drafted by the Washington Redskins. In his first year as quarterback, he led the team to win the NFC East title, and last month the Associated Press named Griffin the NFL Offensive Rookie of the year . On March 12, RGIII became the second Heisman trophy winner (after Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel) to be honored by the Texas Legislature during the 83rd regular session.
Prior to all of this, let the record show, RGIII was a student in Tommye Lou Davis’s intensive summer Latin course at Baylor, where he mastered a semester’s worth of the language over the course of one summer month in Waco. He was always prepared for class, said Davis (who is now Baylor’s vice-president for constituent engagement), and an excellent student. Having previously secured his permission to do so, Davis confided that the lowest grade he ever earned on an assignment was a 93. The other students in the classroom recognized him as a natural leader. If Griffin was tired, Davis explained—he had to work out before class, and so his days started around five in the morning—he would go sit by the window for some fresh air, and other students would go sit by the window too.
RGIII has been in Texas for the past couple of weeks, mostly for physical therapy. In January of this year, he tore a ligament in his knee in a game against the Seattle Seahawks, prompting an outcry from fans who felt that medical staff should have insisted he rest—and widespread anticipation over whether he will be ready to play by the beginning of this year’s season. (He told reporters that he expects so.) In the interim, both the House and the Senate were thrilled with the opportunity to honor Griffin. Legislators from both parties talked about how excellent he is as a quarterback: a thrower who can run, a runner who can throw, a quarterback who passes with precision and takes a cerebral approach to the game.
And the tributes suggested that RGIII is more than a great quarterback. He is, the legislators explained, a great human being: a role model, a leader in his community, en exemplary Texan. Brian Birdwell, who authored the Senate resolution in his honor, noted that Griffin is “unabashed” about his Christian faith, engaged to his college sweetheart, and the son of two Army parents. It was suggested to Ken Starr, the chancellor of the university, that Griffin might run for high office some day. Starr responded by noting a nice coincidence: Griffin shares a birthday with Abraham Lincoln.
Perhaps the sole reservation was expressed by Royce West, a Democratic senator from Dallas, who said that his father, a longtime Dallas Cowboys fan, now supports the Redskins. Other legislators, having grappled with the same issue themselves, were apparently resigned to being Redskins fans as long as Griffin is that team’s quarterback. One said that when the Cowboys play the Redskins, he roots for both teams, and has to hope that a Redskins player fumbles a catch, so that the Cowboys win but no blame redounds to Griffin.
Baylor officials noted, with some wistfulness, that there had been some hopes that RGIII would stay on at Baylor. Having finished his bachelor’s degree early (and with several appearances on the dean’s list, and a good GPA), Griffin had started studying for a master’s degree in communications before the NFL draft, and apparently thought about law school. Of course, given that he just turned 23 (he also graduated from high school ahead of schedule) Griffin has plenty of time to return to campus, should he so want.
For the time being, however, RGIII is focused on the work at hand—getting ready for the next season. In remarks to the House, he hoped that legislators would show the same focus.
“God blessed us all with the opportunity to have a stage to make a difference,” he said. “I’m trying to use mine, and you are trying to use yours. You know, I was a political science major at Baylor, but you guys are handling the politics now.” So they are. And if RGIII day at the capitol was any indication, there are at least a few points on which everyone in the Lege wholly and ardently agrees.