Dec. 2, 2008
IRVING, Texas — Six Baylor student-athletes earned Big 12 Conference yearly football honors, the league office announced Tuesday. Quarterback Robert Griffin was named Offensive Freshman of the Year in a vote of the league’s head coaches. Junior safety Jordan Lake, junior linebacker Joe Pawelek and senior offensive tackle Jason Smith were named first-team All-Big 12, while sophomore punter Derek Epperson and senior offensive tackle Dan Gay earned honorable mention all-league honors.
This is the first time in the league’s 13-year history that Baylor produced three first-team all-conference players and only the third time the Bears have produced more than one. Punter Ty Atteberry and return specialist Kalief Muhammad earned first-team honors in 1996, while return specialist Willie Andrews and punter Daniel Sepulveda were first-team recipients in 2004. Baylor has produced first-team all-Big 12 players only two other times: Andrews as an outside safety in 2005 and Sepulveda in 2006.
Griffin is the second Baylor player to earn a Big 12 individual award; he joins Sepulveda, who was the league’s special teams player of the year in 2006. The nation’s youngest starting quarterback (he still is 18), Griffin tallied 2,934 yards of total offense, eight yards shy of the school record. He posted a 142.00 passing efficiency rating, the third-best season in school history, connecting on 160-of-267 passes for 2,091 yards and 15 touchdowns with only three interceptions.
A product of Copperas Cove [Texas] High School, Griffin’s season ranked among the best in Baylor history as he ranked in the program’s all-time top 10 in yards (sixth), completions (sixth), completion percentage (second), yards per attempt (ninth), touchdowns (tied-fourth) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (second). He also established a Baylor single-season record with 28 touchdowns produced.
However, Griffin was more than just a passer, finishing the season with 843 yards rushing on 173 carries. He tied Baylor’s single-season record with 13 rushing touchdowns and produced four 100-yard games, twice as many as any other Baylor quarterback has ever produced in a career. His yardage total was the 13th-best season in Baylor history as he established Baylor season quarterback and freshman records for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Griffin ranks sixth in the Big 12 in rushing and fifth in rushing touchdowns.
Lake, a product of Houston’s Memorial High School, was named all-conference for the second consecutive season; he was a second-team selection last season. He is tied for fifth in the league and tied for 73rd nationally with 8.1 tackles per game. Lake leads all Big 12 defensive backs in tackles for the second consecutive season. He is 16th nationally and tied for first in the league with 66 solo tackles, most of any Big 12 defensive back and second among defensive backs nationally. Furthermore, he intercepted three passes, broke up seven others and forced two fumbles.
Pawelek enjoyed one of the best seasons by a linebacker nationally this year. He ranks sixth nationally and leads the Big 12 with 10.7 tackles per game. Pawelek tallied 129 tackles on the season, the most by a Baylor linebacker since James Francis had 129 in 1989 and tied for the seventh-best season total regardless of position in Baylor history.
A product of Smithson Valley [Texas] High School, Pawelek also is tied for the league lead and is tied for sixth nationally with 0.5 interceptions per game. He established a Baylor record for interceptions by a linebacker in a season (six), tied for the eighth-best season regardless of position in school history and the most by a Baylor player since Michael McFarland had six in 1991. Pawelek is one of only six Bowl Subdivision linebackers this decade with at least six interceptions in a season; he is the only one of that group to also average at least 10.0 tackles per game.
Smith, a graduate of Dallas’ W.T. White High School, was a midseason All-America by Sports Illustrated. Considered a potential first-round selection April’s National Football League Draft, Smith joined Gay as bookends of Baylor’s offensive line that ranks third in the Big 12 and 26th nationally with 195.8 rushing yards per game. The Bears rushed for 2,349 yards this season, tied for the 10th-best season in school history and the program’s best mark since 1994. Baylor also tallied 29 rushing touchdowns, tied for third in Baylor history and one shy of the school record.
Epperson, a semifinalist for the 2008 Ray Guy Award, ranks second in the Big 12 and ninth nationally with 44.3 yards per punt, the seventh-best season average in school history. A product of Keller [Texas] High School, Epperson helped the Bears to a 38.8-yard net average, which ranks third in the Big 12 and seventh nationally.
A product of St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, La., Gay finished his career with a team-best 34 consecutive starts along the offensive line. Gay and Smith are the third and fourth Baylor linemen to earn All-Big 12 honors, joining Derrick Fletcher (second team, 1998) and Greg Jerman (second team, 2001).