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Heisman Hero

This article was published in the Winter 2012 issue of The Baylor Line and written by Meg Cullar.

Robert Griffin III wins the Heisman – a first at Baylor

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III won the 2011 Heisman Trophy—given to the nation’s most outstanding collegiate football player—on December to in New York City. 

In his acceptance speech, Griffin called the moment “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. The great coach Art Briles always says that great things only come with great effort. And we’ve certainly worked for this. That’s why every-body associated with Baylor University has a reason to celebrate tonight.”

Griffin also won the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top collegiate quarterback, on December 8. 

The Heisman win came on the heels of the Bears’ final home game, a decisive 48-24 victory over the Texas Longhorns December 3 at Floyd Casey Stadium, where the Bears were undefeated for the year. The team finished the regular season with a 9-3 overall record—the most wins since 1986—and secured a berth in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio on December 29. 

Finishing behind Griffin in the Heisman voting were Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, and LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. 

Luck, also the runner-up in 2010, was the favorite going into the season, but Baylor’s 50-48 victory over then fourteenth-ranked TCU in the season opener put Griffin on the map. Griffin posted 359 passing yards in that game, completing twenty-one of twenty-seven throws. 

The season’s biggest highlights came in the November 19 home win over then fifth-ranked Oklahoma. Griffin passed for a Baylor record 479 yards and four touch-downs. After the Sooners tied the game with less than a minute to go, Griffin hit Terrance Williams in the end zone to win the game with eight seconds on the clock. 

But Griffin said the Bears’ road win at Kansas was the season’s pivotal moment. “Down by twenty-one with eleven minutes on the clock, and we came back and won that game in overtime,” he said in an interview during ESPN’s Heisman coverage. “That’s what really pushed us through the rest of the season.” 

The Bears finished the regular season with a number-twelve BCS ranking. Griffin led the nation in passing efficiency and rushed for 644 yards and nine touchdowns. He passed for a school-record 3,998 yards and thirty-six touchdowns. Half of those touchdown passes were for thirty-five yards or more. He was the nation’s best in points responsibility with 22.67 per game and ranked second nationally in total offense (386.83 yards per game). 

Previously, two other Baylor quarterbacks had garnered Heisman votes—Don Trull finished fourth in 1963, and Larry Isbell finished seventh in 1951. 

Griffin gave credit to his teammates and Baylor supporters. “Thank you for all the love and support—through all the knee surgeries and in glorious moments like this,” he said. 

The award is “bigger than the individual,” Griffin told ESPN’s SportsCenter the day after winning the Heisman. “It’s bigger than the university. It’s about the community of Waco and all the alums out there who have been dying for success at Baylor for a long time. So we finally have that. This Heisman Trophy is the beginning of us defining who we are again.”

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