By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
WACO - For the first time all year, Robert Griffin III was visibly nervous.
The Copperas Cove product paced around the Simpson Center media room, greeting teammates and coaches that were gathered - doing all he could to keep his mind off of what was coming.
But after waiting 15 excruciating minutes past 5 p.m. Monday, the news everyone around Baylor Nation had expected for weeks came by way of ESPN's SportsCenter - Griffin was one of five finalists for the prestigious Heisman Trophy.
"It's huge. … You don't ever see yourself right here - you dream it, you want to be there - but once you actually get there, you still can't believe this is happening," Griffin said. "I'm blessed to be able to represent Baylor, blessed I came to this university, and just blessed that the guys on this team showed the grit that they did this year to get us nine wins and get our name out there."
As the large collective of family and teammates erupted in applause, Griffin turned and hugged the first person he saw in senior linebacker Eliot Coffey, and then embraced his mentor - Baylor head coach Art Briles - before appeasing the masses with a quick glimpse of the famous Heisman pose.
"This is a whole different level. This isn't making a 3rd-and-2 conversion and keeping a drive alive, this is a monumental event," said Briles, who was soaking in the celebration right along with many of his players.
"It's unparamount, it's unequaled in the modern history of Baylor University," he added. "So it certainly puts us on the national level with the other elite programs across the nation over the last three or four decades."
During the live 5 p.m. portion of SportsCenter, former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George of Ohio State announced Griffin's name along with Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and Alabama tailback Trent Richardson as those being invited to New York for the Heisman presentation on Saturday.
"All those guys are extremely gifted and talented and we'll see who comes out on top," Griffin said, jokingly adding, "It'll be interesting for me to see them all and see how strong Trent Richardson really is."
The announcement wasn't without its drama, though, as the program touched on several other topics before returning from its first commercial break with the news.
"They said it'd be announced at 5 and then it's 5:15, it was like, 'Oh, all right, just keep me on the ice for 15 more minutes,'" Griffin joked.
The reaction was unlike the usually calm, cool and collected Griffin who orchestrated Baylor to last-minute, game-winning drives against nationally ranked TCU and Oklahoma, and rallied Baylor after it fell behind 21-0 on the road at Kansas.
George, the former Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans star, received even bigger applause when he declared Griffin his favorite to win the award.
"It was amazing. For him to be selected to come because of all he's done - I already know (how special he is) - but for all the Heisman voters to see what I've seen all his life, it does my heart good," said his mother, Jacqueline Griffin, a retired Army sergeant.
For the year, which many are predicting could be his last in college for the potential first-round draft pick, Griffin's performance on the field has garnered plenty of attention for both himself and his university. This season, Griffin has thrown for 3,998 yards on 267-of-369 passing and 36 touchdowns while also adding 644 rushing yards and nine scores on the ground.
"It just shows you that you can do anything you put your mind to, no matter where you're from, or where you live," the former Bulldawg quarterback said. "You can do it if you push for it, and I'm just excited that I was able to go out and be a message to everybody, to just keep pushing forward. If you really want something, go get it because nobody's going to give it to you."
Planning to fly to New York on Wednesday, Griffin's next order of business is finding himself a stylish new suit, and quickly.
"I have a suit, but I don't know if my suit's suitable for New York or the Heisman Trophy ceremony, so I'm probably going to out and rent one," he said. "I'll probably just try to stick to the script, no flashiness, just cool, calm and collected like I always am."