By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
Less than an hour after touching down in Waco two weeks ago, following a whirlwind journey that saw him travel more than 14,000 miles in a week - and return one Heisman Trophy heavier than when he left - Robert Griffin III went right back to work.
Forty minutes after landing on Dec. 14, Baylor's star quarterback was back in his red practice jersey stretching for the Bears' 6 a.m. practice.
"Yeah, life has changed. But the one thing you have to make sure is it doesn't change who you are," Griffin said this week from San Antonio in preparation for Thursday evening's Valero Alamo Bowl against Washington. "I just try to be as normal as I possibly can when I can be normal."
It shouldn't come as a surprise, though. Not for Griffin.
Even while he was jet-setting between Orlando and New York City, the Copperas Cove product never really stopped working. Griffin and his father took time out of their busy schedule of award ceremonies and late-night TV appearances to work out four times over the seven-day trip, sticking to the weight-training regime his teammates were doing back in Waco.
"For Robert, it was important to get back into it," his father, Robert Jr., said. "He needed to reconnect with his teammates immediately upon returning. Everybody was watching him win these awards, and that's great, but there's still a mission in front of these kids."
That culminates tomorrow, when Griffin and his No. 12-ranked Bears take on the Huskies at 8 p.m. in San Antonio's Alamodome.
"Robert is a guy you don't have to worry about," Baylor coach Art Briles said following a Christmas Day practice. "He is glad to be back to some type of normalcy because it was a pretty hectic week. But we will take hectic every year if we can. It was a great thrill and honor for both him and Baylor University football."
But since returning, Griffin experienced somewhat of an intense backlash from his newly-realized national celebrity status, saying this week he's needed the assistance of "bodyguards" - or Baylor athletic department employees - to keep away some of the fanfare. One of his first days back in Waco, Griffin was mobbed by autograph seekers for nearly 30 minutes while making a pit stop for food.
"It's been pretty crazy," Griffin said. "Whenever you do great things, people want to talk to you. It is bringing a lot of attention to Baylor, that's the way I look at it."
Through it all, though, he's continued to keep his focus on the Alamo Bowl.
It's that work ethic and never-take-a-day-off approach that has Griffin believing he shouldn't experience any form of the feared "Heisman hangover."
"The way I look at it, most of the guys probably didn't work out when they were on the Heisman campaign," Griffin said. "I worked out four times while I was gone in Florida and New York. I just like to make sure I keep myself grounded and make sure I keep working out."
Dating back through the decades, Heisman winners have had trouble repeating the performances that won them the award in their ensuing bowl game.
Just since the turn of the century, quarterbacks have especially been bitten by poor play. Remember Oklahoma's Sam Bradford in 2008 or Ohio State's Troy Smith in 2006? Both threw costly interceptions in losses to Florida in the BCS National Championship Game.
In between, the Gators' Tim Tebow had a season-low output in a loss to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl. Florida State's Chris Weinke, Nebraska's Eric Crouch and Oklahoma's Jason White were all also victims of a hangover effect.
"We feel we prevented a lot of what comes with the normal Heisman hangover," Robert Jr. said. "There is some validity there, but because of what we did from the time we left Waco to Orlando to New York and back, we feel we prevented a lot of the Heisman hangover."
Contact Alex Byington at alexb@kdhnews,.com or (254) 501-7566.