NEW YORK -- The humble son of two retired Army sergeants now becomes a name for the ages.
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III became the 77th winner of the Heisman Trophy here beating out two-time finalist Andrew Luck of Stanford. Alabama's Trent Richardson was third.
The redshirt junior caught the nation’s attention with his accurate arm, incredible moves and scholastic achievements. In other words, what the Heisman should be about. Griffin threw for almost 4,000 yards and accounting for 45 touchdowns for an equally humble Baptist school in central Texas.
His win helps Baylor elevate itself from a low point that included a player’s murder eight years ago. Twice in the last 18 months, the program faced an uncertain future with the possible breakup of the Big 12.
But Griffin changed all that. He has been compared to everyone from Michael Vick to Vince Young to any role model you can imagine. If he doesn’t declare for the NFL next month, Griffin will apply for Baylor Law School. There can’t be many former winners who were pursuing their master’s when they accepted the award.
Griffin had two signature Heisman moments this season. On Nov. 19 he threw the game-winning touchdown pass against Oklahoma with eight seconds left. A week ago, he threw for two scores and ran for two more in a blowout win over Texas. In terms of Heisman voting, that was the clincher. Luck and Richardson had completed their seasons.
Actually, there was a third Heisman moment. Griffin outdid himself as a wearer of outrageous socks. He pulled up his pant leg at the ceremony to reveal he was wearing Superman socks – complete with cape. He is the first Heisman winner to play his high school football in Texas since BYU's Ty Detmer in 1990. That's also the last year a player won it from a private parochial school.
Luck and Richardson were thought to be the leaders late into November. But Griffin overtook them winning comfortably by 280 points over Luck (1,687-1,407). For those on the Richardson bandwagon, he didn't even carry his own region. Griffin won even that region 303-256 over the Alabama tailback.
Griffin was born in Japan, the son of Army lifers Robert Sr. and Jacqueline Griffin. Enrolled at Baylor at age 17, he was a Big 12 400-meter hurdles champion in track before he took a snap. When he did, he became the youngest starting quarterback in FBS in 2008.
Coach Art Briles saw something that others didn’t. Other schools projected him either as a track star or something other than a quarterback.
But that was at Houston where Griffin originally committed. When Briles got the job at Baylor, Griffin followed like a loyal puppy.
“A big part of the decision was I wanted to go where I could play early,” he said. “Not that I thought I was better than anyone else, I just didn’t feel like it would be good to sit behind somebody for two years then play.”
In the third game of the 2009 season he tore his ACL. In 2010, he was back throwing for 3,500 yards. This season he threw for almost 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns. He was more accurate than Luck, more exciting than Richardson. If his pass efficiency numbers hold up through the bowl game, Griffin will complete, statistically, the best season in NCAA history.
RGIII also became the third player in FBS history to throw for 10,000 yards and 2,000 yards rushing.