Robert Griffin III was a dual-threat quarterback with a tremendous upside.
Not only was he a gunslinger, but he could also scamper for extra yardage with his quick feet.
When RGIII was in prime, he could hurt the opposition in so many ways.
He could’ve been a great quarterback in the mold of a Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, or Randall Cunningham.
Better yet, he could’ve had a bust in Canton.
Regrettably, naysayers insist he’s now a bust in the traditional football sense after a slew of injuries and distractions made him a shadow of the quarterback he once was.
Looking back at his football career can only make you wonder what could’ve been.
Robert Lee Griffin III was born in Okinawa, Japan on February 12, 1990.
His parents, Robert, Jr. and Jacqueline, are retired U.S. army sergeants who were assigned in Okinawa.
The Griffins lived in Okinawa until he was three years old.
As a military child, Griffin also lived in Fort Carson, CO; Seoul, South Korea; Fort Hood, TX; Tacoma, WA; and New Orleans, LA.
The family eventually settled in Copperas Cove, TX when he was seven years old.
Back then, he was known as “Robby” – a far cry from his future football moniker.
Robby told his dad he wanted to play like Michael Jordan.
Robert, Jr., who played basketball at Kennedy High School before enlisting in the Army, made Robby dribble the ball with his left hand for an hour and run hills with a tire wrapped around his back.
The boy who became “RGIII” told ESPN’s Tom Friend prior to the 2012 NFL Draft the experience was an eye-opener:
“I was mad. Then I realized what it was going to take. My dad would say, ‘If you’re going to do something, why not be the best?'”
“My parents were huge on discipline. It was ‘Yes, sir; No, ma’am.’ And if you’re going to start something, you finish it.”
Two years later, Griffin, who has seven siblings, began belting out solo songs at church.
“I’ve been in the church since I was seven,” he told Baylor Magazine during his college days. “My parents didn’t push it on us but they made sure we grew up in the church, so that’s all we know, that’s what we do.”
"You ain't seen nothing yet" is a phrase used in the church to say the best is yet to come in your life…God bless you all
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) January 1, 2013
When he turned 11, his grade school teacher thought he’d become a good candidate for the presidency.
Instead, his life goal was to become a successful attorney.
When Robby was a 13-year-old teen in August 2003, his dad returned from a military assignment in Iraq.
The older Griffin, who played lefty quarterback during his younger days, told Robby stories about Ken “Snake” Stabler and Fran Tarkenton, per Friend.
Robert Griffin III, the quarterback who could make you pay with his arm and feet, suddenly became a reality.
During Griffin’s junior high school days, Copperas Cove Bulldawgs offensive coordinator Tracy Welch told USA TODAY’s Robert Klemko he attended grade school football clinics and left notes on his desk which said, “Your future Bulldawgs quarterback.”
Griffin never showed his true potential as a high school freshman and senior since he played behind a senior signal caller.
When he became a junior, he competed with Logan Brock – a future tight end with the Houston Texans – at quarterback.
Griffin eventually became the starter and amassed 2,877 all-purpose yards.
He also passed for 25 touchdowns and ran for eight more.
For his efforts on the gridiron, he made it to first-team All-District 16-4A at the end of his junior year.
Griffin upped the ante during his senior season.
That year, he passed for 1,356 yards, ran for 1,285 yards, and accounted for 40 of the Bulldawgs’ touchdowns.
Griffin also excelled in basketball and track at Copperas Cover High School.
He could’ve been a world-class track star.
Griffin won the gold medals in the 110- and 400-meter hurdles on the AAU track and field circuit.
Not only that, but he also won the Gatorade Texas Boys Track& Field Athlete of the Year as a 17-year-old in 2007.
— Next Gen Uniforms (@NextGenUniforms) August 22, 2012
In the aftermath of the 2012 Olympics, Griffin told NFL.com (via ThePostGame.com’s Jeff Eisenband) he could’ve breezed through the hurdles at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro four years later.
“If I wake up one day and it’s 2016 and I say I want to go run the hurdles again, I can do that,” he said.
Not only was Robby a speedster on the gridiron and track, but he was also a fast learner.
He placed seventh in his class at Copperas Cove High School.
He also finished high school in just three-and-a-half years because he took extra classes prior to his senior year so he could compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Unfortunately, he finished in fifth place in the semifinal round of the track and field U.S. Olympic trials that year.
Despite the setback on the track, Robert Griffin III was on the brink of college football stardom.
College Days at Baylor
Robert Griffin, Jr. told Baylor Magazine in the winter of 2011 his son considered the University of Houston, the University of Tennessee, and Stanford University.
Some college football programs thought Robby’s speed would make him a great safety.
However, father and son believed the latter’s best position was at quarterback.
The younger Griffin visited Stanford University in November 2007.
Then-Cardinal head football coach Jim Harbaugh wanted him to be his first recruit.
However, Robby Griffin discovered the Cardinals already had eight quarterbacks on the Cardinal roster: his chances of taking the field were slim to none.
Plus, Stanford was too far: it was roughly 1,700 miles from Griffin’s family in Texas.
After the Stanford visit didn’t pan out, Griffin went on an unofficial visit to the University of Houston.
It was there where he met then-Houston Cougars head football coach Art Briles.
It was also the turning point of Robert Griffin III’s college football career.
His mom, Jacqueline, told Baylor Magazine her son took a liking to Briles immediately.
Tonight we’ll talk about the most important player coached by Art Briles, new HC of the @guelfifirenze, Robert Griffin III. The 2011 Heisman Trophy Winner was the starting QB of Baylor University under Coach B…check the post on FB! Will you come for a visit in Florence @RGIII? pic.twitter.com/Cyxyc9rkhJ
— Estra Guelfi Firenze (@guelfifirenze) August 13, 2018
During Griffin’s visit, he and Briles watched film together and went over the Cougars’ playbook.
Jacqueline sensed the chemistry between the two men, per Baylor Magazine.
“He treated Robert like he was already on the team. Robert just really liked the connection that he and Coach Briles had, and so did we.”
“It meant a lot to us that he would even take the time to sit down with Robert like that.”
It turned out Briles was interviewing for the Baylor Bears head football coaching position that month.
Not only did Briles get the job, but he also got Robert Griffin III to follow him to Waco, TX and commit to the Bears’ football program in January 2008.
The latter told Baylor Magazine he was happy with the turn of events:
“God does everything for a reason, so I ended up here at Baylor for a reason. I’m glad it happened.”
“I could be at the University of Houston, with or without Coach Briles. But He happened to let Coach Briles take the Baylor job early so I could come to Baylor.”
When Griffin wore Bears Green and Gold for the first time in the spring of 2008, he gave stiff competition to junior Blake Szymanski and senior Kirby Freeman at the quarterback position.
Griffin fast-tracked his political science major at Baylor, taking four consecutive 16-hour semesters and attending summer school, per Baylor Magazine.
Coincidentally, he graduated on the same day as his dad, who completed his master’s degree in psychology at Texas A&M Central Texas.
The older Griffin attended his son’s graduation ceremony instead.
True freshman Robert Griffin III came off the bench after the fourth drive of the 2008 season opener against the 23rd-ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons and remained the starter for the rest of the year.
He finished his first college game with 125 yards on 11-of-19 passing, 29 rushing yards, and one rushing touchdown in a 41-13 home loss to the Demon Deacons.
Nonetheless, Griffin had already established himself as a dual-threat quarterback.
— Aaron Ward (@aaronhward) July 20, 2020
His best game of the 2008 NCAA season was against the Connecticut Huskies on September 19.
Griffin threw for 208 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions.
He also ran for 46 yards and another touchdown in the narrow 31-28 road loss.
He finished the season with 2,091 passing yards, 843 rushing yards, and 28 touchdowns (15 in the air and 13 on the ground).
His 13 rushing touchdowns and 843 rushing yards represented a school record for a freshman quarterback, per the Bears’ official athletics website.
At season’s end, Griffin was the Baylor offensive MVP, Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, ESPN Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, Sporting News and Rivals.com Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and The Associated Press Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
Griffin also made it to the Big 12 Commissioner’s honor roll twice during his freshman season.
He was also a track and field All-American.
Despite Griffin’s spectacular showing, Briles’ crew stumbled to a lowly 4-8 win-loss mark.
Griffin was on pace for another record-breaking season in 2009 before he tore his right ACL in a 68-13 blowout win over the Northwestern State Demon Deacons on September 26.
The injury forced Griffin to sit out the remainder of his sophomore season.
It was the first of many significant injuries which would derail his football career.
Without Griffin in tow, Baylor duplicated its 4-8 mark from the previous year.
Griffin came back with a vengeance to start all of the Bears’ 13 games in 2010.
He threw for over 200 yards in 11 of those games: a new school record.
Griffin also passed for more than 300 yards in four games during his redshirt sophomore campaign.
— Baylor University (@Baylor) August 21, 2013
His best game was against Kansas State Wildcats on October 23, 2010.
He threw for 404 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception in the 38-26 home win.
Griffin finished the year with 3,501 passing yards, 635 rushing yards, and 30 total touchdowns.
Baylor wound up with a 7-6 win-loss record in 2010.
Griffin’s inspired play on the field sparked various Heisman Trophy mentions.
He also earned All-Big 12, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, and Comeback Player of the Year honors.
These were just a taste of what was to come during his memorable redshirt junior year.
Griffin started the 2011 NCAA season with a bang.
He threw for 359 yards, five touchdowns, and rushed for one score in a close 50-48 win over the TCU Horned Frogs on September 2, 2011.
He also passed for five touchdowns against the Rice Owls and Kansas State Wildcats in consecutive weeks.
Griffin’s season-long brilliance would carry the Bears to a 9-3 win-loss record – their best since the 1986 NCAA season.
He finished his redshirt junior year with 4,293 passing yards, 699 rushing yards, and 47 total touchdowns.
— ODB (@OurDailyBears) December 11, 2015
To nobody’s surprise, Robert Griffin III won the 2011 Heisman Trophy – the first in Baylor Bears football history.
RGIII also became the fifth Big 12 player to win the Heisman.
Griffin spoke about his historical feat with Big12Sports.com’s Wendell Barnhouse on December 10, 2011:
“All along I’ve said it’s not an individual award. It’s about Baylor Nation. We’ll bring home this award and hopefully it will inspire people to chase their dreams. I achieved mine, and I couldn’t have done it without the people around me.”
“It’s monumental, to have the first Heisman Trophy in Waco, Texas, where things haven’t been good for a very long time. What we’ve done over the past couple years has been groundbreaking for Baylor University and the city of Waco.”
Griffin also won the Davey O’Brien Award and Manning Award.
He became the first Bears player to win the three accolades in the same season, per BaylorBears.com.
It was just a tiny sample of almost 50 awards he won after his memorable redshirt junior year at Baylor.
Griffin’s next big task was leading the 15th-ranked Bears against the Washington Huskies in the Valero Alamo Bowl on December 29, 2011.
On this night, it wasn’t Griffin who took the limelight.
It was Baylor running back Terrance Ganaway who ran for 200 yards and scored five touchdowns in his team’s 67-56 win.
Griffin had 350 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in the victory.
The win upped the Bears’ record to 10-3 on the season.
While many were clamoring for RGIII to return for his senior year, he decided to declare for the 2012 NFL Draft two weeks after the Bears’ Valero Alamo Bowl triumph.
— Haley (@haeklund) May 21, 2015
Griffin finished his stellar collegiate football career with 10,366 passing yards, 2,254 rushing yards, and 111 total touchdowns.
He was such an icon at Baylor the university erected his bronze statue at McLane Stadium on August 31, 2014.
RGIII was about to become a household name in the National Football League.
Many draft experts believed either the Baylor Bears’ Robert Griffin III or the Stanford Cardinal’s Andrew Luck would go first overall.
The Indianapolis Colts, who finished a dismal 2-14 in the 2011 NFL season, made Luck the first overall selection and heir apparent to Peyton Manning.
As expected, the Redskins plucked RGIII from the draft pool.
He signed a four-year, $21.1 million deal with Washington, per NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal.
Almost seven years later, Washington receiver Santana Moss recalled that pivotal moment in franchise history, per NBC Sports Washington:
“I was pretty ecstatic because I knew his skill level was something that we haven’t really had in a while, or I haven’t played with in a while.”
“Last person I think I played with like that in a game was Michael Vick in a Pro Bowl game.”
“So I know that we had a guy that can be that dynamic with his legs and with his arm, I was excited to see what our team could become of.”
The Redskins, who won just five games in 2011 and missed the postseason for a fourth straight year, need all the help they could get.
RGIII could be the difference-maker they desperately sought.
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) April 25, 2013
He wasn’t too shabby in his pro debut.
Griffin picked up where he left off at Baylor by passing for 320 yards and two touchdowns in a 40-32 road win over Drew Brees’ New Orleans Saints on September 10, 2012.
A beaming Griffin told The Associated Press (via ESPN) he was pleased with his performance:
“I’ve won a high school state championship and a bowl game in college, but to play in the NFL, the pinnacle of it all, and win your first game against a Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, it’s at the top.”
Despite RGIII’s heroics, the Redskins won just two of their next eight games.
When Griffin passed for four touchdowns in consecutive games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys in November 2012, Washington turned its season around.
The Redskins went on a six-game tear to finish the regular season at 10-6.
Up next were Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card Game.
It was a much-anticipated showdown between two stellar rookie quarterbacks.
Wilson, whom the Seahawks drafted seventy-three picks after Griffin, threw for 187 yards and a touchdown in Seattle’s 24-14 comeback victory on January 6, 2013.
Washington didn’t just lose the lead.
They also lost Griffin, who tore his right ACL, LCL, and meniscus in the fourth quarter.
He finished his rookie year 4,015 all-purpose yards, 20 passing touchdowns, five interceptions, and seven rushing touchdowns.
— ElFlashGaming (@ElFlashGaming) January 9, 2013
After recovering from reconstructive offseason knee surgery, RGIII took the field in 2013 hoping to carry Washington into the postseason again.
Alas, it didn’t materialize.
Griffin’s performance slid in 2013.
He threw for 3,203 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions (the most in his NFL career).
Worse, he failed to score a single rushing touchdown.
Consequently, the Redskins were an abysmal 3-13 in 2013.
At this point in time, RGIII would sustain several significant injuries which took a massive toll on his NFL career.
He would see action in just twenty-eight games over the next six seasons.
Griffin played in that many games during his first two pro campaigns in Washington.
He dislocated his ankle and had to be carted off the field in the first quarter of the Redskins’ 41-10 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 14, 2014.
He returned a little over two months later.
During Washington’s subsequent seven-game stretch, Griffin threw for just four touchdowns and six interceptions.
Unknown to many, he had played his last down in D.C.
The Redskins also bottomed out of the NFC East with a 4-12 win-loss record.
— TheSportsBloggers (@Sports_Bloggers) September 14, 2014
Griffin then suffered a concussion in Week 2 of the 2015 preseason.
His injury paved the way for Kirk Cousins to secure the Redskins’ starting quarterback position.
With Cousins under center, Washington improved to 9-7 and reached the Wild Card Round.
As for RGIII, he languished on Washington’s bench the entire 2015 NFL campaign.
Nearly four years after Robert Griffin III took the NFL by storm, the Redskins released him on March 7, 2016.
Four years later when he was backing up Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, RGIII told ESPN’s John Keim (via NBC Sports Washington) he wasn’t meant to play in the nation’s capital for his entire pro football career:
“For me, the bottom line was I got hurt and I got hurt one too many times and it didn’t work out for me; it wasn’t meant for me to be a Washington Redskin for my whole career.”
“Do you wish everybody was aligned? Yes. But at the end of the day, they weren’t. That’s just the bottom line – you have to move on from it.”
Seventeen days after his release, RGIII signed a two-year, $15 million deal with the Cleveland Browns.
Alas, he fractured the bone in his left shoulder in Week 1 and didn’t take the field until Week 14.
He then suffered a concussion in the 20-17 win over the San Diego Chargers on December 24, 2016.
Griffin accounted for just four touchdowns in a total of five games.
The Browns stunk up the joint, winning just one game during the 2016 NFL season.
Cleveland eventually released RGIII on March 11, 2017.
After sitting out the entire 2017 NFL season as a free agent, he signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens on April 4, 2018.
— NFL (@NFL) September 1, 2018
Griffin suited up in just three games as a backup to Joe Flacco and another dual-threat signal-caller, 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson.
Despite RGIII’s limited production, Baltimore re-signed him to a two-year, $4 million deal on March 22, 2019.
Griffin solidified his role as Jackson’s main backup after Flacco became the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos.
RGIII suited up in seven games for the Ravens in 2019 – the most he’s seen action on the gridiron in five years.
Over the next two seasons, he would throw for just one touchdown in 11 appearances.
During that span, the Ravens would lose in the Divisional Round each time.
Baltimore released RGIII on January 18, 2021.
Since then, Robert Griffin III has yet to play another down in the NFL.
Life Outside Football
Prior to Robert Griffin III’s memorable rookie year with the Washington Redskins in 2012, he had endorsement deals with Castrol Motor Oil, EA Sports, Subway, Adidas, Gatorade, EvoShield, and Nissan, per ESPN’s Darren Rovell.
— 7News DC Sports (@7NewsDCSports) July 5, 2017
Unfortunately, Hall-of-Fame quarterback Warren Moon told TheUndefeated.com’s Jason Reid in 2016 RGIII’s endorsement deals and overindulgence in social media became detrimental to his football career.
“All the endorsements, the commercials, always having something to say on social media about every topic that was out there…didn’t help him.”
“Then if he got negative feedback, he got very sensitive about it.”
Griffin’s hometown, Copperas Cove, TX, named the Five Hills shopping center’s main roadway “Robert Griffin III Boulevard” in 2013.
Griffin started dating fellow Baylor student Rebecca Liddicoat in 2009. They got married four years later.
The couple welcomed their daughter Reese Ann Griffin on May 21, 2015.
A little over a year later, Griffin filed for divorce against Liddicoat.
Despite the turn of events, then-Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor told Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot RGIII remained a committed father to his daughter:
“He’s chill. He’s real relaxed,” Pryor said. “He FaceTimes his daughter a lot. He’s a family guy. He’s a teammate first; he’s awesome.”
Griffin became engaged to Estonian heptathlete Grete Sadeiko on May 13, 2017.
They got married on March 10, 2018. They have two daughters.
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) August 5, 2021
RGIII joined ESPN as a pro and college football analyst on August 6, 2021. He told The Associated Press (via ESPN) he’s fully committed to his new role:
“ESPN has been great through this whole process and understanding that I still want to play.”
“I still love the game. If that opportunity doesn’t come, I’ll be giving everything I have to ESPN and this process.”
The saga of RGIII continues.