By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Nearly three years removed from his playing days at Baylor, 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III was back in a place that "will always be home for me."
And he certainly looked at home during Sunday's debut of the Bears' new $266 million, riverfront McLane Stadium.
From the unveiling of his bronze statue in the plaza at the south end of the stadium to saying the pregame prayer and from joining former President George W. Bush for the coin flip to becoming the guest conductor for the Golden Wave Band's halftime performance, RG3 looked more like a college kid on game day than the third-year starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins.
"It still hasn't hit me," said the 24-year-old Griffin III. "I'm sure when we drop this curtain here (covering up the statue), it will hit me. But this is something that will be here forever. And it's a big day not for me, but for my family, for my future family, and I consider everyone here today family."
With a large portion of his extended family crowded around, the 9 ½-foot monumental bronze sculpture was formally unveiled. Created by West Texas native and current Arizona resident Tom White, the statue depicts the braided RG3 in a throwing motion, with intricate details like the signature towel in front and veins showing on both legs.
"To see the spirit of the crowd for what he did for Baylor is still living in the fans' minds," White said, "this will be a reminder. To see the panel behind the statue lit up at night will be beautiful."
During Sunday afternoon's presentation, Director of Athletics Ian McCaw said, "Robert has done so much to raise the bar for Baylor and to extend the university's brand."
"When Robert won the Heisman in 2011, Baylor fans across the nation celebrated with him," McCaw said. "We're proud of him, proud of his accomplishments, and most of all proud of the incredible way that he always represents Baylor University. Robert, we're grateful to have you here today to celebrate a dream that you're very much a part of."
That dream included an on-campus stadium like the palace that the Bears christened with Sunday's resounding 45-0 shutout of SMU. Griffin III said it was part of the vision that football head coach Art Briles casted when he recruited the quarterback out of Copperas Cove High School almost seven years ago.
"We talked about it, and we said we want to have so much success that they can't help but build a stadium on campus. And we did that," RG3 said. "And it wasn't just me, it wasn't just coach, it was everybody involved. (Baylor President Ken Starr) had a big part in that, too, because he believed in Coach Briles' vision. He believed in dreaming big and being ambitious, and it paid off."
Judge Starr said, "If you're in Washington, D.C., before you go watch the Redskins and Robert, go see Mr. Lincoln. That's a great statue. If you're going to New York City, go see the Statue of Liberty. And when you come to Waco, you're going to see the statue of Judge Baylor, Coach (Grant) Teaff and Robert Griffin III."
The 24-year-old RG3 said he was humbled by Baylor's decision to honor with him a statue, just three years after his college career ended.
"You don't dream about that kind of stuff," he said. "There's a Statue of Liberty and all those other statues, but you don't ever dream of having a statue honored in your name. That's a blessing, it comes from God, and I don't look at it as anyone putting me on a pedestal. I look at it as I know where my blessings come from, and they're using me in a way to help other people. Not just to say that he's a great football player, I hope they say he's a great man as well."
In breaking seemingly every record in the books, Griffin III passed for 10,366 yards and 78 touchdowns and added 2,254 yards and 33 touchdowns on the ground. He helped the Bears end a 15-year bowl drought in 2010 and came back to win the Heisman the next year, leading the team to a 10-3 mark and Alamo Bowl victory over Washington.
"Like I said a couple years ago, we won the Heisman," he said. "So, this is for us. It's for all my teammates, drawing back to (Joe Pawelek), Jordan Lake, Dan Gay, Jordan Hervey, all those guys. It took a lot to get this point. And I'm honored to be a part of the unveiling not only the statue but also this stadium, because it means a lot to this community and to Baylor University."
John Wood, former pastor at First Baptist Waco, and his wife, Pat Alexander Wood, provided the funds for the statue and commissioned White to create the artwork.
"I've always wanted to give back to Baylor and have admired those fellow alumni who have done so over the years," said Wood, a former yell leader as a Baylor student who served as the football team's chaplain during Grant Teaff's tenure as coach. "I've been part of Baylor football through three stadiums, going back to Municipal Stadium when I was a freshman, and now here we are with fabulous McLane Stadium. Pat and I simply thought that Robert deserved to be honored with a larger-than-life bronze right at the entrance to the new home of the Bears."
Although he obviously never got a chance to play in it, RG3 has been credited with playing at least a part in getting McLane Stadium built. His 2011 Heisman season gave the school the momentum it needed to raise the funds for such a huge undertaking.
"If anything, it just lets you know that if you keep working, you keep building, you get things like this," he said. "We didn't have this stadium; we didn't have the workout facility when we first got here. We had Floyd Casey. And now, we have all this."
When asked about where the program goes from here, Griffin III replied, "There's no limit."
"Anything God puts his hands on has no limit," he said. "So, the sky is the limit for this team, for this program, for this university. It's only going to get bigger, it's only going to get better. So, I hope you guys are ready for the ride."