published Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Wiedmer: Griffin deserved this Heisman win

I didn't vote for Baylor junior quarterback Robert Griffin III to win the Heisman Trophy. But I wish I had. I wish every Heisman winner could have Griffin's rare blend of talent, character, intelligence and charisma.

It's what most of us when we were kids probably thought the Heisman should be about, before it fell into the hands of guys like O.J. Simpson and Reggie Bush.

But Griffin could change all that. The guy's so smart he graduated from high school a year early. Then he also graduated from Baylor early with an eye toward one day becoming a lawyer. Maybe he can one day defend any future Heisman winners who tend to lean more toward Simpson than RG3.

His stats alone were reason enough for him to be considered, of course. Thirty-six touchdown passes. Six interceptions. Nine rushing touchdowns. Nearly 4,000 yards through the air.

But numbers may not be Griffin's best selling point. The guy went to Baylor, not exactly a football juggernaut. Yet there he was shredding Texas last week to apparently lock up whatever voters weren't yet in his corner.

A single stat to validate his fairly easy win over second-place finisher Andrew Luck of Stanford, who was the prohibitive preseason favorite: The Bears' defense ranked 114th of 120 Division I programs, yet the team finished 9-3 in a Big 12 conference ranked the nation's toughest.

Said ESPN analyst Mark May last week: "Without Griffin, Baylor might have won four games."

Yet the reason to embrace Griffin is all the other stuff. The academics. The leadership. His apparent good character, though we'll now learn much more about that now that it will surely be tested often as a Heisman Trophy winner.

After all, when Griffin says, "I don't want it to be about the money" of the decision he must soon make to return for his senior season or jump to the NFL, you somehow believe him, even if you're also pretty sure that anyone smart enough to consider law school also is smart enough to take the $30 million or so he should make in next year's NFL. Especially since he's already earned his undergrad degree.

Then again, Griffin also said this past week of the Bears program, "It's great whenever you can build something from the ground up, because here at Baylor, things hadn't been good for a while. The foundation had eroded away and we were able to get the grass back green."

How green? The Bears just completed a 4-0 November. They'd won a combined four Big 12 games combined over the previous 15 seasons. Heck, when this season began, there was considerable doubt that Baylor would still have a BCS conference to play in, since it appeared the Big 12 might disband and no other major conference wanted BU, which figured to soon begin headlines slugged "Bad New, Bears."

But then Griffin shredded TCU's highly respected defense for 359 passing yards and five touchdowns in a season-opening win. The hype began and Griffin lived up to it on almost every Saturday.

This was the same guy who threw 209 collegiate passes before he tossed his first interception. Not to mention the guy who a Big 12 champion and NCAA All-American in the 400-meter hurdles before he ever stepped on a football field.

No wonder his coach, Art Briles, told Griffin after his first game -- when he was the nation's youngest FBS starting quarterback -- "In two or three years you'll be a Heisman finalist."

Still, being a finalist and a winner are two different things. Luck's numbers weren't as good but he'd already gathered momentum. Then there was Alabama's Trent Richardson, who had watched former teammate Mark Ingram win the award a couple of years ago from the same tailback position. Could that history repeat? And let's not forget LSU's Honey Badger -- defensive back Tyrann Mathieu -- the late bloomer.

"Great things don't happen without hard work," Griffin said in his acceptance speech. "That's why everyone associated with Baylor University has a reason to celebrate tonight."

That's why all of college football should celebrate tonight. And just maybe why Griffin might return next season to try to repeat.

After all, the only player to win the Heisman twice also was named Griffin -- Ohio State's Archie Griffin in 1974 and 1975.

If Griffin comes back, I'm pretty sure he could count on my vote next time.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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