WACO, Texas – When Robert Griffin III arrived at Baylor four years ago with new coach Art Briles, the Bears had never even had a winning season in the Big 12.
Standing in the confetti celebration last month after the Bears won their first bowl game in nearly two decades for a 10-win season, the exciting dual-threat quarterback knew in his gut it was time to move on to the next level.
Griffin made it official Wednesday, announcing he would skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft after a college career in which he set or tied 54 school records in 41 games. It was a month and a day after RG3 became the first Baylor player to win college football’s highest individual honor.
“Obviously you want to leave something better than you found it,” Griffin said. “I can say we’ve done that.”
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It was nearly 2 1 / 2minutes after Griffin started talking during his campus news conference that he finally said he was going to the NFL. But, like he said, he has never been good at good-byes.
“It’s see you later,” he said.
His public announcement came right after meeting with teammates to inform them of the decision, and Griffin said he broke down in tears after telling them.
Griffin had told Briles of his decision when they spoke Tuesday, following up on a conversation from the previous day.
“Neither of us broke down, surprisingly,” said Griffin, though Briles quickly added with a smile, “Not on the outside.”
Despite losing the best quarterback in Baylor history, Briles called it a day of celebration for all that Griffin has meant and stood for at Baylor, both on and off the field.
“He’s ready, it’s time,” Briles said. “I’m excited, and I’m happy for Robert, for the way he’s conducted himself for four years and the journey he has in front of him.”
Stanford’s Andrew Luck, the Heisman runner-up, and Griffin are likely to be the first two quarterbacks drafted in April.
“It’s just a tough decision, I love the people at this university,” Griffin said. “I love my coach for giving me the chance of being a quarterback and doing the things that we’ve done.”
The Bears tied a school record this season with 10 wins – the other 10-win season was in 1980 during Mike Singletary’s senior year. They won their last six games in 2011, and the record-setting 67-56 victory over Washington in the Alamo Bowl was their first bowl victory since 1992.
Baylor finished ranked No. 13, the first time since 1986 that the Bears were in the final AP poll of the year.
When Griffin walked out of the room after his news conference, he was greeted in the hallway by an embrace from school president Ken Starr, who expressed how proud he was of the quarterback.
“He is priceless. He’s just matchless in terms of the combination of goodness of character, greatness of skill and his commitment to his university and his teammates,” Starr said. “The nation has found Robert to be this very endearing and, as someone said, he’s the most interesting person in perhaps all of athletics, but interesting in a positive sense. It’s all good, and there’s a goodness of character that makes Baylor proud.”
Griffin arrived at Baylor as a 17-year-old freshman in January 2008 after graduating from high school a semester early. He completed an undergraduate degree in political science in December 2010 and has been working on his master’s degree in communications, which he said he will complete with a thesis either this spring or summer.
Baylor’s career passing leader completed 800 of 1,192 passes (67 percent) for 10,366 yards with 78 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. His 2,254 yards and 33 TDs rushing are records for a Bears quarterback.
He had another season of eligibility remaining because he got a medical redshirt after he tore the ACL in his right knee in the third game of the 2009 season. He said any fear of getting hurt again had no impact on his decision to leave.
Griffin completed 291 of 402 passes (72 percent) for 4,293 yards and 37 TDs with only six interceptions this season, when he also ran for 699 yards and 10 more touchdowns. He was the nation’s second-most efficient passer with a 189.48 rating, just behind Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson, whose 191.78 rating came with 93 fewer pass attempts.
“We definitely brought a lot of excitement here to Baylor that’s been warranted for a long time,” he said. “We’ve gotten to new heights at Baylor that haven’t been seen in a long time, but the climb isn’t over. … I will always be a Baylor Bear, no matter what.”