Keeping Score

Q&A: Washington D.C.’s NFL Savior, Robert Griffin III

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Sarah Glenn / Getty Images

Robert Griffin III of the Baylor Bears, pictured during a game against the Texas Longhorns on December 3, 2011 in Waco, Texas.

Before Subway, which has signed Robert Griffin III to an endorsement contract, officially unveiled a bust made out of smokehouse barbeque chicken in RG3’s likeness (“They keep calling it the food bust, but you don’t want to keep saying ‘bust’ around the draft, so we’ve been calling it a sculpture,” Griffin says), the Heisman Trophy winner, who will be selected by the Washington Redskins with the second pick in tonight’s NFL Draft, spoke to Keeping Score. He talked about dealing with D.C. expectations, rumors that he has a selfish streak and, naturally, his sock collection.

The Washington Redskins traded three first-round draft picks, and a second rounder, in order to secure the second overall pick this year and select you. The nation’s capital, a football town, is starving for a winning quarterback. Do you feel this pressure? How do you deal with it?

The expectations are through the roof. In D.C., a lot of people have already labeled me “the savior.”  They’ve made Hope posters, they have T-shirts all over the place.  I had the D.C. experience on a smaller scale at Baylor.We had a lot of pressure to succeed at Baylor. Because our fans wanted it. It’s Texas football. You can’t keep getting beat by Texas and Texas A&M and Texas Tech. Eventually you have to rise up and overcome or your fans won’t be there. Sixteen-year bowl drought, we ended it. Ten wins for the first time in 20 years. Heisman Trophy, things like that.

Sometimes in life you have to go through things to make you ready for a higher level. Baylor got me ready for it, now I have to go D.C. and experience the same phenomenon, a hundred times greater.

I just want the fans to know that if we don’t succeed, we’re not just going to fold. I’ll be the first person to come back into the facility and continue to work to get better. It won’t be that the pressure just crushed us.

Are you disappointed that you won’t be the first overall pick? 

Not at all.  There are two number-one picks this year. No one gives up three first rounders and a second for the second pick in the draft.

I try not to talk about the other guy, Andrew Luck, a lot. That’s who Indy wanted. I can’t be mad about it. I’m not going to be mad about it. Washington wants me. And that’s the great thing, that’s what makes me feel good about the whole process. I found a team that wants me for who I am.

The whole Peyton Manning situation, everything that’s around Indy, it’s something that Andrew is going to have to overcome and deal with, and it’s not easy task. [Colts] coach [Chuck] Pagano and the GM, Mr. [Ryan] Grigson, they just believe that’s their guy. You have to respect that. I’m not going to badmouth them. I’m not going to say whenever we play them, we want to destroy them. I just have to realize that’s their guy. [Redskins general manager] Bruce Allen, [Redskins coach] Mike Shannahan, [Redskins owner] Dan Snyder – I’m their guy.

(MORE: Beyond The Quarterbacks: Why The NFL Draft Really Matters)

In a recent Washington Post profile, one of your Baylor teammates said you have a reputation for being a “freak,” both on and off the field. We know why you’re a freak on the field. Why are you a freak off the field? 

When they say I’m a freak off the field, that can be basketball, badminton – anything sports-wise, whenever we play as a team, I’m always there, I’m always playing with the guys. And then they’re talking about the classroom. I’m always studying. I probably wrote the most papers of any college quarterback, because I was in grad school and in undergrad I was doing political science, which everyone knows is writing. That’s all it is. A bunch of writing. So that’s what they mean by I’m a freak off the field. Not necessary the freakiness of what some people think when their minds go south for the winter.

You also have an extensive sock collection that includes Elmo socks and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles socks. Is that part of you being a freak off the field too?

(Laughs) It was something I started in high school, my sophomore year. I just wanted to let people know I was comfortable with who I am. It was, “sure, laugh at me, say I’m nerdy, say I’m not cool, and I’m still going to be confident and successful.” So that’s where the sock thing came from. Even at Baylor, people would laugh at my socks. But I know one thing, I got a smile out of everybody. It kind of just comes back to the personality thing. Today I’ve got the Subway socks on. I’ve got some special socks for the draft.  But I can’t tell anybody what those are.

Hopefully, I’ll get a sock deal. I’ll probably be the first football player to ever get a sock deal.

You mentioned that you studied politics at Baylor, and you’ll be playing in the nation’s capital – any interest in a future in politics? 

I’ve never been one to say “I want to be a senator or congressman or president of the United States.” Maybe when I was like 12, but not now. I’m not going to be campaigning or donating to any candidates or anything like that. I’ll definitely keep an eye on politics, but I’m not going to give my endorsement to anyone, because, honestly, my endorsement should mean absolutely nothing. If Obama is still in office, I’d love to play basketball with the president, or throw the football around or something like that.

Your father was deployed to Iraq when you were 13. What do you remember about dealing with that? 

There are things in life that set you up. Having to deal with my dad leaving kept me down that path of discipline. He left, went to Iraq, and I did not know if he was coming back. I still worked hard, still did the things I was supposed to do. It kind of showed me I could rely on myself just as much as I could any coach or anybody else in my life.

In a newspaper report, an anonymous scout said you had a selfish streak. According to the story, another scout had questions about how you deal with people. What is your reaction?

The basis of the whole argument seemed a little off. That’s what the media people said. I kind of let other people try to fight that battle. Because I can’t come out and say, “He’s wrong. I’m not selfish. I am the most humble guy in the world.”

If the media would have started agreeing, then I would have had to. When people you’ve dealt with come out and say, “that’s completely wrong” —  you know, Bill Polian [the former Colts president, and current ESPN analyst] was sticking up for me. I’ve never had a chance to meet Mr. Polian. It’s kind of like, all right, everyone else is fighting this battle, and they’ve seen that’s not the type of guy I am.

If you want examples of why I’m not selfish, there’s always the Heisman speech [Griffin thanked this coaches and teammates and family profusely], everything I’ve done for Baylor, the community, all those different kinds of things. Find an example of me being selfish, then I’ll give you and example of me not being selfish. So other than that you have to let it go, and let people say what’s they’re going to say. And just try to live your life like you know you can.

What kind of quarterback do you see yourself being?

I try to mix and match from the different quarterbacks. The mold that everyone is seeing nowadays is kind of the Aaron Rodgers mold. Where guys can throw the football with the best of them, and move in the pocket, run a little bit if they have to. I hope I can bring a new aspect to that. Where it’s not just “he can throw really well, and he can run pretty good.” I want it to be “this guy is a great thrower, and he is a great runner.” To where it’s a real dual threat. Rather than just, “he’s OK at throwing the ball, he’s OK at running the ball, so he’s a solid quarterback.” I don’t want people to say I’m a solid quarterback. I want to be the best, and I’ll continually work until I get there.

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