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Thursday, August 21, 2008
Five minutes with Baylor freshman QB Robert Griffin


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

WACO, Texas -- Heralded recruit Robert Griffin was set to come to Houston where he could play with Art Briles, who had recruited him for the Cougars throughout his high school career.

But when Briles left Houston for Baylor last November, Griffin decided to follow him to his new job.

Griffin was one of the top dual-threat quarterback prospects in the nation after a strong high school career at Copperas Cove, Texas. He arrived at school a semester early and immediately pushed his way into a tight three-way battle for the starting quarterback job with Blake Szymanski and Miami redshirt Kirby Freeman.

Griffin has shown flashes of talent on the football field and also placed third in the NCAA 400-meter hurdles outdoor track championship after winning the Big 12 and NCAA Midwest Regional titles leading up to the championship meet. That athleticism has earned him the nickname of "Rambo" from his teammates because of his dedication.

The 6-foot-3, 203-pound Griffin is expected to see action in the Bears' Aug. 28 opener against Wake Forest. We sat down with him for a few minutes earlier this week.

At this time last year, you were playing high school football. Now, you're challenging for a starting job on your college team. How far have you come in the last 12 months?

RG -- It's going really well. Yeah, the college season is getting to start. I'm doing the college thing and the high school guys are waiting to see me now. It's not a big deal to me. People think I'll have first-game jitters against Wake Forest. I don't think I will. I've played in big games before. It will be my first college game, but I can't look at it any other way.

I guess you couldn't ask for a better start than to play against a nationally-ranked team on national television at home in your first game, could you?

RG -- If we're going to play, we may as well play one of the best. They are No. 23 in the country. Who knows where we're ranked, but it really doesn't matter. A ranking is just a number. They can throw those rankings out there, but people get beat every day. We're excited about the challenge.

You've dealt with Coach Briles for a long time and were set to go with him to the University of Houston. You then decided to follow him to Baylor when he took this job. Why did you make this leap of faith with your coach?

RG -- I really wasn't sure why he switched from Houston to Baylor. It was kind of sudden for me, but I'm glad he did it when he did it, coming sooner [in the recruiting season] rather than later. I could have signed a letter of intent with Houston and then he could have gone off to Baylor and I'd be stuck. I'm glad he did it early and let me know about it and decided to bring me with him. Sometimes, you have to take that leap of faith. He came here because he wants to build something. He didn't want to stay in Houston. I don't know why he didn't want to stay there, but he wanted to go somewhere else. This is Big 12 and was a challenge for him.

Was it the attractiveness of playing for Coach Briles when he was at Houston, was it the program, or him?

RG -- It was definitely for the coach. You could say it's the program, but really the program is made from the head coach. So by him leaving, it's a total different atmosphere down there now.

How have things come along for you with Coach Briles' offense?

RG -- They've been going great. I think it's a perfect offense for the talent that we have, which is more than people might think. Over time, you continue to see more things, feel more comfortable and get the reads down better. In the spring we had a pretty good grasp at it, but now, we're looking smoother. Everybody as a whole -- the offensive line, the receivers and the quarterback -- we're all looking a whole lot better.

How did growing up in a military family shape you?

RG -- With my dad and mom, there was a lot of discipline in our family. Most military families are like that -- strict on discipline. But I think it's not just they got from the military, but what they got growing up. They were both born in New Orleans and they both knew what it's like to struggle. And they had to have discipline in that struggle that they passed on to me and my sisters. It's worked really well for us.

Where all did you live growing up? Was it the typical life of somebody in the military?

RG -- It wasn't crazy as most. I was born in Japan and then we moved to Colorado, Washington state, New Orleans and then to Copperas Cove, Texas. I've stayed there for about 10 years. My dad was stationed at Fort Hood for most of that time. I don't remember Japan or Colorado, but I do remember Washington. It will be fun to go up against Washington State this year (Baylor plays Washington State on Sept. 13).

What have the challenges been like to get involved in this offense so quickly?

RG -- It hasn't been that bad. It would have been different if I had come in the spring with the other coach here with his offense already implemented. But when Coach Briles came in, he brought his own offense and everybody was put on an even playing field. Whoever learned it got their chance and would be the one playing. We've all picked it up. So nobody is really ahead as far as the knowledge of the offense. And how you play is going to determine when you're going to play.

What's the challenge like of trying to turn around the Baylor program that hasn't been to a bowl game in 14 seasons? What would it be like to change that losing tradition around while you are here?

RG -- You can't just come in and throw it all on your back and say 'I'm the man' and we're going to do this. You have got to have patience, but I don't think we're going to have to do as much as some people say. I think we can turn it around this year and the whole team thinks that way. You have to think that way. If you don't believe, then nobody else will. Baylor has been down for a long time and not many people want to come here because of that. But I'm excited about the challenge.

What did you think when Coach Briles called you for the first time and told you he was going to take the Baylor job?

RG -- He really didn't tell me. I found out about by watching television. I called him the day before it happened and asked him if it was true about him being in the running for the Baylor job. He told me it was just rumors and just keep playing football. I turned the TV on the next day and saw the press conference where he was wearing the Baylor hat and doing the 'Sic 'em Bear' (hand) sign. I called him as soon as it happened. He told me he wanted me to come with him.

How soon did you get in touch with him after he was hired by Baylor?

RG -- I tried getting in touch with him that day, but his phone was pretty hot. I had to call his wife and she got in touch with him for me.

I guess that shows she must have a pretty good eye for recruiting talent, doesn't she?

RG -- (Laughing) They are a good family and good people.

Did playing in the Big 12 have any factor in you coming here?

RG -- Not many people want to go to Conference USA. Not downing the confere
nce at all, because they have some talent there. But playing at Houston, you're playing in that conference and people are saying you don't have enough competition. But coming to the Big 12, this is where all of the competition is.

You're also going from a problem that was at the top of the conference at Houston, winning championships and making bowl trips, to Baylor. How is that different?

RG -- Coach Briles went from the top to bottom, but went from the top of a weaker conference to the bottom of the best conference in football. For me, I didn't experience C-USA at all. All my experiences have been with the Big 12 and our defense. It's a good experience. There's a lot of talent out there and a lot of talent at the other schools. It will be a big challenge for me and I'm looking forward to it.

Have the Baylor coaches talked to you about playing a different position this season?

RG -- Not at all. When Jay Mo (Baylor RB Jeremy Sanders) came in and they started working him at running back, a lot of people thought that's what they would do with me. But I haven't heard anything except jokingly from one of the defensive coaches who wants me to play cornerback. Other than that they haven't talked to me about anything.