I’m neither a Baylor University alum nor a fan of the Baylor Bears. But I know what I’d say to outsiders who oppose Robert Griffin III’s upcoming statue outside the school’s new stadium:
Mind your business.
This isn’t just college football we’re talking about. It’s college football in Texas, a state with 12 FBS schools spread across five conferences. If their babies can’t grow up to be Cowboys, parents cross their fingers and hope for Longhorns, Red Raiders, Horned Frogs, or Aggies at the very least.
Only recently have Bears cracked the wish list and they’re rising quickly. The $260 million, 45,000-seat McLane Stadium will help.
So will the 9.5-foot bronze sculpture of RG3, whose role in Baylor’s resurgence is bigger than anyone not named Art Briles.
RG3’s immortalization doesn’t have a thing to do with his nascent NFL career. He has played only 28 games for the Washington Redskins. His record as a starting quarterback is 12-16. He ended last season on the bench after his team lost five straight games.
Folks in Waco reply: So what?
Griffin’s accomplishments at Baylor are substantial and permanent. There’s nothing he can do to tarnish his legacy or diminish his role in reviving a moribund program. Even if he goes from NFL Rookie of the Year and NFC East division champ to injury-plagued bust and perennial loser, it won’t change a thing on campus.
Baylor is preparing to play its 109th season of intercollegiate football. It had won 10 games in a season only once before RG3 led the Bears to a 10-3 record in 2011, including an Alamo Bowl victory.
He lifted the program while improving his completion percentage each season and helped put butts in seats. Home attendance increased in each of his four seasons, rising from 34,124 per game to 41,368 in his final year.
Critics say that’s well and good, but it doesn’t necessarily warrant a statue.
They’re absolutely right.
So here’s the trump card, the fact that should end any debate and shut-up every detractor:
HE WON THE HEISMAN.
The Heisman Trophy has been awarded since 1935. Thanks to RG3, Baylor has produced the same number of winners as Alabama (Mark Ingram), Penn State (John Cappelletti) and Louisiana State (Billy Cannon). Griffin joined exclusive company as a player and brought his alma mater along for the ride.
Winning that hunk of stiff-arming hardware pretty much seals the deal. The trophy virtually ensures a player’s chance of being sculpted in the future.
In an area called Heisman Park, across the street from Owen Field, Oklahoma has statues of Sam Bradford, Jason White, Billy Sims, Steve Owens and Billy Vessels. The Florida trio of Tim Tebow, Danny Wuerffel and Steve Spurrier are cast in bronze outside The Swamp.
Ernie Davis stands erect between the Carrier Dome and Syracuse University’s quad. Outside of Alumni Stadium, Boston College has a statue of Doug Flutie rearing back, with a plaque that reads “The ‘Hail Mary’ Pass.”
About 100 miles south of Waco, former Longhorns Ricky Williams and Earl Campbell are immortalized at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium. In Dallas, Doak Walker has a statue between SMU’s Gerald Ford Stadium and Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports.
Even non-Heisman winners can get the bronze treatment. Notre Dame’s “Four Horsemen,” Illinois’ Harold “Red” Grange and Louisville’s Johnny Unitas all have statues on campus.
And don’t get me started on the number of football coaches who have statues, at least a dozen. Notre Dame has four by itself.
Sometimes players are honored with a sculpture in their golden years. Other times the unveiling is done posthumously. I think all of us would prefer a chance to enjoy the artwork and the accolades.
Give people flowers while they can still smell them.
He’s only 23, but Griffin is and forever will be a legend at Baylor. Unveiling his statue when the stadium opens in the fall makes perfect sense. It’s going to be one big party for fans and alumni, reveling in the state-of-the-art facility that features a humongous video screen that can be displayed on spectators’ smart devices via special apps and a wireless network.
Fans of pro sports can snicker and sneer all they want. They can complain that RG3 doesn’t deserve a statue, that he’s still unproven and way too young. They can carp about modern society’s instant gratification syndrome and perpetual lack of patience.
To which the Baylor faithful can respond:
This is between us and RG3; it’s none of your concern.