WACO — As he came down off the high of Baylor's first bowl victory in nearly two decades and not long after concluding his spontaneous turn as the conductor to the Golden Wave Band, Robert Griffin III knew his time in green and gold was through.

“At the end of the bowl game, I broke down and started crying, and after that my gut was just telling me it was time to go,” Griffin said.

Shortly after formally informing his teammates and coaches during a team meeting Wednesday, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback confirmed rampant media speculation when he announced he was forgoing his final season of college eligibility to enter the 2012 NFL Draft during a press conference.

“It's been tough, I thought I wouldn't break down today, but I already did — and (head) coach (Art Briles) saw me,” Griffin said with his patented grin. “It's just a tough decision, because I love the people of this university, I love my coach for giving me the chance to be a quarterback and do the things that we've done.”

But ultimately, despite taking two weeks to contemplate his options, it was a decision that was made following the record-setting 67-56 shootout victory over Washington in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29.

Capping arguably Baylor's most memorable season in its 110-year history, Griffin's dynamic presence on and off the field helped spearhead the program's national resurgence with a six-game win streak to end the season, as the Bears (10-3) tied a school record with 10 wins — equaling the 1980 total in Mike Singletary's senior season.

Considered a top-five selection in April's NFL Draft, Griffin's stock has never been higher with many draft analysts expecting him to go as high as No. 2 following consensus-No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck of Stanford.

But for Griffin, that's not good enough.

“When you're a competitor, you never want to finish second, and we all know who has the first pick (Indianapolis Colts) ... So, I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen,” Griffin said. “That's the way you have to approach it, you have to go for what you want in life. Like coach (Briles) said, ‘Don't chase the dream, go catch it' and I plan on catching it.”

After turning around the Baylor football program, Griffin will undoubtedly be expected to do the same at the next level for a franchise in dire need of a face lift, including quarterback-needy Cleveland, Miami, Seattle and Washington — all of whom might need to trade into the top 3 just to select him.His high school coach, Copperas Cove athletic director Jack Welch, has no doubt Griffin can rise to that challenge.

“I think he'll be a difference-maker in the NFL. I think that what you see right now in the NFL is the quarterbacks that can run, are mobile and can move are making a difference,” Welch said. “And Robert has all those intangibles and I think that getting him in the right scheme with the right coach that knows how to utilize his talent, he will be the next one to revolutionize the NFL offensive play. I think he has that kind of ability.”

For Briles, who brought Griffin with him from Houston when he took the job in 2007 essentially signifying the beginning of Baylor's revival, the initial news Tuesday was hard to hear — even if, as Griffin says, “neither of us broke down, surprisingly.”

“Not on the outside,” quipped Briles.

But this wasn't a day about feeling sad.

“It's a day of celebration in my mind, because of all that's he's meant and stood for Baylor University, our football program, and athletics in general, it's a very special time,” Briles said. “He's ready — it's time.”

This season, Griffin established himself as the pre-eminent quarterback at Baylor, securing the school record for passing yards in a single game (479 against Oklahoma), single season (4,293) and career (10,366). In all, Griffin set or tied 54 school records in four years at Baylor, combining on 12,639 yards of total offense — including 2,273 rushing — and 111 combined touchdowns (78 passing and 33 rushing).


Copperas Cove ISD and the city of Copperas Cove will honor Griffin with his own day — RGIII Day — during a public ceremony at 6:30 p.m. today at Bulldawg Stadium.

Griffin and his family will be present, along with his Heisman Trophy.

Mayor John Hull and City Manager Andrea Gardner will present the former Bulldawg standout with the key to the city.

“It's just a good time to celebrate and thank him for what he has done for our community and our school,” Welch said. “The community wants to show their support to Robert and they want to be able to congratulate him and be apart of (his accomplishments).“At the same time, Robert wants to be able to do that for our community. ... There's nothing like your hometown, and we always say ‘Once a Dawg, always a Dawg.'”

Contact Alex Byington at alexb@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7566.

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